Mother of Mine

Sunday, May 8, AD 2011

If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

Rudyard Kipling

To all mothers among our commenters, contributors and readership, the happiest of Mother’s Days! 

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Osama bin Laden, Singing Chipmunks, Euroweenism and Internet Hitler

Sunday, May 8, AD 2011


I like to regard myself as an American patriot, but I think I can see the flaws of the nation as well as its virtues.  One of its flaws can be a certain tackiness.  A minor example:  having cartoon chipmunks singing patriotic songs.  However, before I become too embarrassed for the land of my birth, I am usually strongly reminded by a news story why I greatly appreciate living in this country. 

Such a reminder occurred this week:

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10 Responses to Osama bin Laden, Singing Chipmunks, Euroweenism and Internet Hitler

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  • How many more 9/11 memorials, tributes and ceremonies do Americans need to show how red, white and blue they are? I’ll probably get flamed for this — what else is new? — but I don’t have blinded love for a country that threatens to garnish my Social Security because I owe the VA $54 in medical bills while GE pays nothing in taxes and bribery and corruption pervade all of government with virtual impunity. Or a nation that has permitted 50 million abortions and wages 3 wars on foreign soil.

    I thought you Christians felt higher kinship with other Christians, regardless of country, rather than as fellow countrymen, which is mere tribalism and nationalism. Hence, American “exceptionalism.” We’re better than everyone else and we know what’s good for them whether they like it or not. This is the prevalent attitude in this country and it’s undeniable.

    Patriotism is at its worst when people wear American flags as clothing and hats, plaster their cars with mundane bumper stickers (i.e. America: Love it or Leave it, Ruck Fussia) and start chanting U-S-A for the flimsiest of reasons, it reminds me of the mass Nazi assemblies during Hitler’s halcyon days. Yeah, I love mom, apple pie and used to love baseball. I like a lot of things about America but I don’t need to sing the national anthem or pledge my allegiance every time I go to a game or a town meeting. I don’t need to see wreath-laying and military pep talks by a hypocritical commander-in-chief who never served and who was honored with a peace prize while waging more wars.

    Obama is milking the Osama assassination for every drop of red, white and blood he can — Ground zero, Ft. Campbell, 9/11 firehouse visits, etc. — and most everyone’s waving the flag again. In 3 more weeks, get to do it all over again with Memorial Day when gas will be five bucks. Five weeks after that it’s the Fourth of July and more fireworks and Sousa songs and hands over hearts. At the base of it all is pride — the deadliest of sins. Humility has never been one of America’s strong suits.

    OK, I’m donning my fire-retardant flame suit….GO!

  • “Patriotism is at its worst when people wear American flags as clothing and hats, plaster their cars with mundane bumper stickers (i.e. America: Love it or Leave it, Ruck Fussia) and start chanting U-S-A for the flimsiest of reasons, it reminds me of the mass Nazi assemblies during Hitler’s halcyon days.”

    Justice for 3000 of our murdered countrymen is not a “flimsy reason” Joe and comparing displays of American patriotism to Nazi assemblies is obscene and deranged. If one confuses America with utopia one is bound to be disappointed. If one compares with America what most of humanity has lived under during recorded history, America is a bright shining city on a hill.

  • “obscene and deranged.” OK, Don, I guess that’s what I am.

  • Not you Joe merely the opinion you expressed. As for you, you are simply a member of the C.O.B. club, which on my bad days I feel like I founded. 🙂

  • No, you were correct in your assessment. No need to back off. I’m an old bitter obscene and deranged man, no doubt about it.

  • I thought that clip had been made unavailable for parodies. I am happy to see that Hitler’s tirades re: the news du joir continue. And this is a great one!

    This dummkopf of a Herr Professor and many of his countrymen and women don’t seem to understand that being a great military power does not automatically entail invading Poland and setting up extermination camps. (And, perhaps, if they cannot make that distinction, it is better for them to continue to be holier-than-thou pacifists. I’d rather have the Germans sanctimoniously scolding us than goose stepping their way across Europe.) It’s like confusing being assertive and self-confident with behaving like a bully and a jerk. The formerly warlike Huns are now so sheepish they are unable to feel patriotism or draw a distinction between celebrating the death of thousands of innocents and celebrating the death of the man who killed those innocents.

    The lesson they drew from WWII was that war is always wrong. The lesson we drew from it is that appeasing tyrants like Hitler does not work. I imagine that for people who have been continually reminded of the atrocities of the Third Reich since 1945, the opportunity to play the “I’m more moral than you” game is one many Germans cannot resist.

  • A fine zinger from James Taranto at WSJ’s “Best of the Web”:

    “Der Spiegel quotes one Herfried Münkler, a snotty German political scientist who is put off by the scenes of Americans celebrating Osama bin Laden’s death:

    ‘For European observers,(Munkler says) these kinds of public gatherings are indeed somewhat embarrassing, because they demonstrate a kind of unthinking naïveté, and also because there is something provocative about them. But it was only a small number of Americans who demonstrated their feelings so openly, just as in 2001 it was only a few Muslims who were happy about the thousands who were killed in the terror attacks.’

    We guess what he’s saying is that it isn’t like the Nuremberg rallies or anything.”

  • Meanwhile, “The Sun”, London reported that racist members of the multi-racial, multi-religious English Defense League chanted “USA!” while Osama-worshipping morons attempted to turn the butcher into a hero.

  • I’m surprised you’re so insulted by the description of your comment as obscene, given that you compare people to Nazis. You don’t get to say things like that and then object that discourse has become uncivil.

“the Gaga-who-walks-among-us”

Saturday, May 7, AD 2011

Blogging for the Jesuit national weekly America, Tom Beaudoin (associate professor of theology in the Graduate School of Religion at Fordham) indulges in speculation about the theological and cultural significance of … Lady Gaga, soliciting reflections from a new generation of budding scholars and theologians on Lady Gaga’s “ethos of ‘authenticity'” — as in the following, from a faculty member of Marymount School in NY:

But to think about incarnation in another way, imagine Gaga performing unplugged and sans makeup as her natural-born self. She would then be not the Gaga sanctified and worshipped as “Mother Monster” on a (media) pedestal, but the Gaga-who-walks-among-us, the one who knows and understands the pain of being freak, outcast, and reject.

Recall the furor back in 2005 when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the direction of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, gave the order to dismiss Fr. Thomas J. Reese, former editor of America. The CDF has been long concerned about the Jesuit publication’s promotion of positions on moral issues often in conflict with Catholic teaching. And insofar as the heterodox theological output of America was taken seriously, the Vatican’s concerns seemed warranted.

But in this case, I would encourage Mr. Beaudoin and company to keep up the good work.

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21 Responses to “the Gaga-who-walks-among-us”

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  • To paraphrase Karl Marx, America the Jesuit rag is the opiate of idiots. That anyone takes this deeply silly publication seriously now is a sign of what an intellectually and spiritually impoverished time we live in.

  • The “significance” of Gaga is that she’s determined to be even more tiresomely “edgy” than the trashy and now long-in-the-tooth Madonna was back in the day. Madge strutted about in a ridiculous cone bra, so Gaga has to drape herself in a meat dress (what a sad waste of perfectly good sirloin). Madge used crosses and Catholic iconography in her videos so Gaga has to push the envelope even further by singing about how she “loves” Judas. He’s a bad boy, you know?

    The only theological significance Gaga has is that she demonstrates for the umpteenth time, that Christian-bashing is lucrative and earns one the reputation for being a daring artiste, without any real risk involved. Well, there is, in fact plenty of risk involved if one considers the afterlife, but Madge, Gaga, et al don’t. Or if they do, they undoubtably assume that getting into heaven is like gaining entrance to a snooty Manhattan club. The Lord will be so impressed with their celebrity and string of Number 1 hits that He’ll make allowances and wave them right in. And then He’ll ask them for an autograph.

  • Congress needs to enact legislation outlawing that magazine from abusing the name, “America.”

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  • Talking about Gaga’s “ethos of authenticity” just shows you’re not in on the joke. As Weird Al recently pointed out, Gaga’s not crazy, she just “performs that way”. Outrageousness for the sake of outrageousness as a means of increasing fame and record sales is hardly a novel media strategy at this point. I’ll admit Gaga’s better at manipulating the media than most, but how anyone could look at the deliberate spectacle and come away talking about “authenticity” is beyond me.

  • “I’ll admit Gaga’s better at manipulating the media than most, but how anyone could look at the deliberate spectacle and come away talking about “authenticity” is beyond me.”

    That great philosopher David Hannum explained it long ago John Henry: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”, and nowadays many of them have degrees.

  • The idea that an entirely corporately managed, marketed and packaged product is “authentic” really betrays the spirit of a Christian ecology that the America readership embraces doesn’t it. This performer and marketing team merely studied the way another Italian-American and traditionally Catholic success story sold records via tapping anti-Catholic sentiment and has played it up to the maximum.

    People liked to dance to a certain throbbing beat in nightclubs and then it was marketed as a mainstream product. It doesn’t mean that people actually really like it or that the market would embrace a pro-Catholic performer dressed the same, with the same beat etc…

  • But I think I can be of service here to help clarify the context better. Likely this author would have taken it further but perhaps he was distracted, had papers to grade, etc., we all know how it can be these days in academia.

    Here’s the thing with Ms. Germanatta/Gaga. She and her sister were privileged enough to attend an elite, private, progressive, all-girls nursery through 12 Catholic school in Manhattan for her years of schooling. Likely her parents sacrificed to give her this education in the faith to the tune of what average Americans will spend on a car for transport to and from job, on an annual basis. Undoubtedly in choosing one of the most expensive private schools in the country that also happens to be Catholic, her parents wished for Gaga to have the benefit of faith.

    Leaving aside the fact of the corporate marketing driven popular culture which does not really favor open and spontaneous artistic expression, and leaving aside the fact that Madonna decades ago did the exact same things to the tune of many millions of dollars reaped for herself and the companies who sponsored her and then going on to be her own company in effect, leaving all of that aside if you will.

    Looking at the Gaga oeuvre it seems that she is prone to posing, with little clothing on in a manner that emphasizes breasts and a rosary or some re-enactment of some sexual act. I am sure the author of this article did not intend to hide that which Gaga herself is most proud. We need not be embarrassed to acknowledge her message.

    As she walks amongst us she grapples with coming to terms with faith. She wishes that the rosary will bless her sexual persona.

    I think what this author and America readers are in fact pining for is the full reconciliation of Gaga with her faith such that she put into action all the benefits of a progressive elite expensive Manhattan Catholic school education. To be a leader and a disciple, a voice for the outcast and condemned.

    I envision that Gaga will process this article and the sentiments therein and be encouraged to rise to her calling. I picture Gaga organizing and leading the next prolife flash mob. Just to underscore the resistance. To show the little 2nd grade girls (who I know for a fact watch her and consume her products) that, indeed, what God has made is very good and, hallelujah that their mothers permitted them to be born. This way. Or that way. Or whatever way God created them. That when they enclose their breasts in cone shaped expensive bras and simulate graphic sexual acts on the stage or in video, they may also look forward to authenticity in their life of faith and that they need not be scandalized by a generation that loves to sell them things and takes their money that also out of the other side of their mouth pronounces life as not always desirable and indeed if one aborts a little girl simply because a boy was wanted in her place this is entirely a private and ok thing.

    We will see what is in store for Gaga. With her finances and the successful marketing of herself, she certainly has a bully pulpit at her disposal. Let’s hope that little girls who see and hear her products do not misunderstand that the only or best power and dignity they possess comes from the ability to wear conifer shaped bras and simulate sexual acts to music. Let’s hope that for little girls in difficult and diverse circumstances there are enough good voices in their lives who see them for who they entirely are, listen to what they have to say, as good.

  • Very good Donna V.

  • Don: “how anyone could look at the deliberate spectacle and come away talking about ‘authenticity’ is beyond me.”

    I neglected to mention Michael O’Loughlin’s earlier post to America:

    What does unconditional love and acceptance look like in twenty-first century America today? Sometimes, she wears a dress made of raw meat. … This message, so simple yet so elusive today, is one that echos some central tenets of the Christian faith: the love of neighbor and acceptance of yourself as God created you.

    and as another scholar-to-be at Harvard puts it:

    “A different lover is not a sin”—the affirming message about sexuality in Gaga’s “Born This Way” is quite amenable to the views of most young adult Catholics I know. As such, the real theological impact of her work resides not in the content of her position on sexuality, but in her willingness to proclaim it.

    So, it’s “authenticity” and self-affirmation that sort.

  • As such, the real theological impact of her work resides not in the content of her position on sexuality, but in her willingness to proclaim it

    I know it can be a bad career move for a theologian, but sometimes it’s more in-keeping with an “ethos of authenticity” to just come out say, “I give up. I have nothing interesting to say about theology or culture.”

  • Octuple facepalm. “Thinking Catholics” at work.

    Are they really arguing for the “authenticity” of someone who calls herself “Lady Gaga”? At least Madonna used her given name, for the love of Elvis. I guess their knack for critical thinking shorts out spectacularly when it’s not aimed Romeward.

    So if I change my name to Lord Portaloo, run my voice through an autotuner and rip-off a much-more-talented-in-every-way predecessor, as long as I mouth platitudes about self-esteem I can strut around in a codpiece (literally made of cod) and get lickspittle love from some of the best educated laity ever?

    Better get to work.

  • Thank you for the laugh, Christopher!

  • “As such, the real theological impact of her work resides not in the content of her position on sexuality, but in her willingness to proclaim it”

    Tell that to the junior high kids hooked on the porn who haven’t even begun yet to live or sort out sexuality or identity…

    By this criteria, the billions plus porn industry (which is an export for the US) is a theological good. Meaning, good, virtuous, healthy, helpful…

  • I remember Camille Paglia nuking the painfully inauthentic nature of Ms. Germanotta’s corporate machine a few months ago. And here it is:

    We live in very interesting times: an avowedly atheist professor has a much better moral compass (not to mention a nose for pure BS) than members of the Catholic theological establishment in America.

  • The whole notion that one only has sexual power if one simulates sex acts on tv or wears things that arouse in order to be objectified by another seeking immediate sexual gratification and nothing more is so passe.

    Apart from the cleavage or the thongs what she wears (and says and sings) is a bit sterile. Since she does not mention anything spiritual but just uses certain words and throws rosaries around for effect, it’s kind of hilarious to say that she carries any theological message.

    I think that her overall theological message is more having to do with this “funny expensive clothes, a disco beat, combined with marketed with hatred towards the Church” sells big right now in the U.S.

    If a young woman who looked exactly like her but dressed according to the Mormon culture shown on reality tv were to attempt to market her stuff how far would that go? Who’s to say that such a person lacks “sexual authenticity” or “sexual power”?

  • Great post, Emily.

    Dale, that is why I read Paglia a lot more regularly than America.

  • Cut them some slack – those America writers have deadlines to meet and white space to fill just like everybody else. They may have even misplaced their “pop star has theological theme” article generator and had to write from scratch! That ain’t easy while nursing a hangover.

  • c matt, So I take it you aren’t one to take the “theological output” of America magazine seriously? Certainly there can be some interesting articles. Maybe it was sort of like PBS pledge week…

  • This Paglia line pretty well sums up:
    “Lady Gaga is a manufactured personality…”

    What year did David Bowie do the Ziggy act…now living a bourgeois albeit extremely wealthy existence with wife Iman…It’s about profiting from manufactured shock and awe isn’t it.

    Sort of insulting to artistic community to say that if they cannot afford to wear push-up bras and simulate sex (or, for whatever reasons, choose a different avenue for their art) while throwing around a rosary that they lack authenticity or power…pretty sad commentary isn’t it.


Saturday, May 7, AD 2011

Melkite Patriarch: Don’t Encourage Arab Revolutions – Benjamin Mann, CNA

How Rembrandt Reinvented Jesus – Dan Neil, The Wall Street Journal

Beverley Minster & Saint John of Beverley – Stephanie A. Mann, TER:S&S

Pakistan Church Scared, Revenge Attacks Will Come – Nasir Saeed, Cth Hrld

God’s Grandma Made Patron Saint of Detroit – Diane M. Korzeniewski O.C.D.S.

Sears Removes Pornographic DVDs from Their Website – Joshua Mercer, CV

Charges Dropped Against Notre Dame-Obama Speech Protestors – S. Ertelt

Same-Sex Debate in New York – Bobby Ross Jr., Get Religion

John Paul II and the Jesuits – Giuseppe Ambrose, The Three Bs

New Book on Canon Law – John Whitehead, Once I Was A Clever Boy

The Story of Each One of Us – Father R. Tomasek S.J., Zeal

Girl Freaks Out Against Pro-Life Display – Matthew Archbold, Crtv Min. Rep.


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Narcissism in Music (or, “How Gregorian Chant can Save the World”)

Friday, May 6, AD 2011

Last week National Public Radio ran a story called “Narcissism on Rise in Pop Music Lyrics.” It opened up with,

On this very day in 1985, the number one song on the Billboard Top 100 was…”We Are the World” (“We are the world. We are the children.”)  Fast-forward to 2007 when Timbaland’s “Give It to Me” featuring Nelly Furtado topped the charts: “…love my a$$ and my abs in the video for ‘Promiscuous.’ My style is ridiculous.”

So more than two decades ago, we were holding hands and swaying to a song of unity, and these days, we’re bouncing to pop stars singing about how fabulous they are.  Psychologist Nathan DeWall has had the pleasure of listening to it all for research, and he found that lyrics in pop music from 1980 to 2007 reflect increasing narcissism in society. And DeWall is an associate psychology professor at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. DeWall proceeded to explain:

I was listening to a song that, really, one of my favorite bands, Weezer, had on one of their albums recently, and it’s called “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” and I kept wondering, who would actually say that out loud?  “I am the greatest man that ever lived. I was born to give and give and give.”

The ironic thing is it’s a song about how I’m the greatest person in the world, but it’s to the tune of “‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple,” which is a song about humility. And so what I wanted to do, instead of relying on self-report measures of personality like narcissism, I wanted to actually go into our culture, our cultural products, which are tangible artifacts of our cultural environment. And so, for that, I thought maybe song lyrics would be a very good jumping-off spot.

What we found over time is that there’s an increasing focus on me and my instead of we and our and us. So, for example, instead of talking about love being between we and us and us finding new things together, it’s mostly about how, you know, for example, Justin Timberlake in 2006 said, “I’m bringing sexy back. Yeah. Them other boys don’t know how to act. Yeah.”

There is no doubt that DeWall is correct.  Pop music is becoming more narcissistic.  The broader, age old question is: Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?  The answer is probably some of both.  Our culture is increasingly narcissistic.  In the spirit of the NPR article, which was about music, I wish to propose a possible antidote for narcissism: the liturgy, specifically liturgical music.

Unfortunately, we must first distinguish between music that might be heard in any given liturgy and liturgical music, properly speaking.  While the Catholic Church has been plagued with bad versions of the four-hymn sandwich for decades, the fact remains that Holy Mother Church has given us a liturgical hymnbook: The Graduale Romanum,  In this book, one will find the ancient Gregorian chants.  But what many will be surprised to find is that the Church has given us specific chants for every Sunday of the year in the places that we currently sing “hymns.”  For any given Mass, there are prescribed chants for the Introit (think here of the “Opening Hymn” you are used to hearing), the Gradual (“Responsorial Psalm”), the Offertorio (“Offertory”), and the Communio (“Communion Song”).  Most of these date back more than a thousand years.  Of course, in the Graduale Romanum, one will find the chant written in Latin.  However, vernacular versions of these exist.  What is key is that the liturgical rubrics, while they permit hymns, call for a preference given to these chants.  Vatican II itself held that the Gregorian chant tradition should enjoy a “pride of place” in our liturgies.

Why do I see this as an antidote for narcissism?  The surest way to deal with this problem is to give people the sense that they are not the center of reality, nor are they the source.  The Cartesian turn to the subject has flipped classical metaphysics on its head so that people come to view reality as what is in their own minds rather than what their minds encounter on the outside.  The liturgy is a reality that is given to us, not one that is created by us.  In fact, it is in the liturgy itself that we find our own fulfillment.  When we go to Mass, we participate in reality itself, something that is much bigger than us.  If we see the Liturgy as something that we fit into rather than something that fits into our lives, we can come to understand that we are not the center of reality: God is.

The problem is, as has been observed on several observations over the past decade, there is an increasing narcissism even within the liturgy itself: both priests and people come to think that the liturgy is something that can be created and recreated with the fickle winds of changing culture.  In fact, the lack of narcissistic language in the new translation of the Roman Missal has been pointed out in comparison with the current, defective translation.  Currently, there are several places in the texts that seem to order God to do certain things and to give a primacy to the people over the divine.  The new translation, being more faithful to the Latin, has sought to correct many of these errors.  What remains to be fixed is the same problem in the hymns that are often chosen for Sunday worship.  Many of the modern hymns focus on man rather than God (think here of “Gather Us In,” or the ever-elusive “Sing a New Church Into Being”).  Quite simply, these hymns are self-centered rather than God-centered.

Contrast this with the use of the Graduale Romanum.  These chants have been given to us by the Church, each carefully constructed around sacred texts in order to serve as a sort of lectio divina for the readings of the day.  Indeed, when Gregorian chant is properly performed, it seems as if it is not of this world.  Part of that is due to the inherent structure of the music, for chant lacks a strict meter (though it has an internal rhythm of its own).  Unlike a hymn, which marches forward towards a climactic conclusion, chant allows the listener to rest in contemplation, a mirror of the eternity which we, God willing, will experience someday.  But another part is due to the words, which become primary (unlike modern pop music, where the words are often a later add-on to an already existing rhythm/chord structure).

Perhaps the most important point, however, is the fact that the music of the Mass inevitably (forgive the pun) sets the tone of the entire celebration.  It stands to reason, then, if we employ a music that is provided for us by the Church (not to mention encouraged by the rubrics), then the people will better understand that the liturgy itself is given and not created.  If they come to understand the liturgy, which is the objective center of reality, in this manner, then they will come to see that they are not the center of reality.  Thus, my rapid fire, probably incomplete, but hopefully coherent, argument that an antidote for the rise in narcissism is Gregorian Chant.  Save the liturgy, save the world.

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One Response to Sharpe Meets Lord of the Rings

Gather Us In, A Bad Song Is Playing

Friday, May 6, AD 2011

A reader writes into Fr. Z to ask why Gregorian Chant is to be preferred at Mass to hymns like “Gather Us In” which the reader, a newly minted Catholic, happens to like.  Fr. Z responds here, and the commenters also chime in with responses that hit the mark.

Fr. Z writes:

As a preamble, music for liturgical worship is not a mere add on or decoration.  It is liturgical worship.  Therefore the texts used should be sacred texts.  The texts of those ditties mentioned in the question are not sacred, liturgical texts.  They are not the prayer of the Church.

He then discusses the quality of the hymns under discussion.  This is a more subjective argument.  After all, there are people who think the hymns located in the Gather hymnal are quite extraordinary.  I question the sanity of such people, but that’s neither here nor there.  This is a country that consistently puts American Idol at the top of the ratings, so I’m obviously a bit out of the loop with my musical tastes.

Besides, even non banal hymns seem out of place in our liturgy.  On Holy Thursday I attended Mass at St. Mathew’s Cathedral.  As always, it was a beautiful, reverent, and yes, Novus Ordo liturgy.  I don’t remember the entrance hymn.  It was a nice hymn – something more fitting than one of the turds from the Gather hymnal.  And yet there was something a bit off.  It was a fairly upbeat hymn, and as Cardinal Wuerl incensed the altar it just felt jarring.  Here is this solemn moment marking the beginning of the Triduum, and the accompanying music just does not fit what is happening up there in the sanctuary.  It’s the sort of thing that just snaps you out of the moment, and that’s the problem.

The liturgy is prayer, not entertainment.  The reason that these hymns are generally inappropriate, no matter the quality, is that they simply don’t fit in with what’s supposed to be happening.  Instead of amplifying our prayers they drown them out.  That’s why I find the incessant need to have some kind of music playing at all times whenever there is more than five seconds of silence so frustrating.  You’ve all probably heard organists vamp when the hymn ends before the Priest has reached the sanctuary, or after Communion when not all have returned to their places.  Why can’t he or she just let silence reign for a few minutes?  Why is there such a need for constant noise, especially when it does not fit in appropriately with that moment in the liturgy?

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44 Responses to Gather Us In, A Bad Song Is Playing

  • Thanks a lot, Paul. Now I’ve got Gather Us In stuck in my head. “The lame”, indeed.

  • @Pinky,

    It’s even worse for me. I despise that “hymn” (and I think it’s granting it too much to call it that) so much that I only know the melody and the first few lines. Now I find myself mentally composing inappropriate hokey lyrics that better fit the message of that song! And all while I should be studying for final exams, which begin tomorrow!

  • The worst one for me is a hymn (I don’t know the name of it) which is set to the music of Holst’s Jupiter. Now, Holst wrote some great music, and I enjoy The Planets, and he even wrote hymns…but “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” is about the god Jupiter. It really messes me up. It’s like starting a Mass with a Hare Krishna song.

  • Shame of place for me in the worst hymn category will always be: “Sing a New Song”. Shudder !

  • The real issue here is a complete and deliberate ignoring of church teaching. The rubrics in the GIRM clearly indicate a preference given to the Gregorian Propers for the Mass. These are ancient chant pieces that have been passed down, most over a thousand years. True, the GIRM leaves room for “a suitable hymn” but lists it as the very last option. Why, then, are we such minimalists in our liturgy so as to make the last option the standard? Eliminating official Mass texts across the board in virtually every parish in the country is nothing short of a tragedy. It would be like deciding to get rid of Collect (Opening Prayer) and replace it with an off-the-cuff prayer.

    My apologies for the abruptness of this, but this really gets me fired up. Why can we not simply do what the Church asks? “Sing a New Song”? Please, God, let’s.

  • No apologies needed, Jake. You are absolutely on the money here and in your post as well.

  • May be at work is Neuhaus’ Law: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

  • @ Pinky and Kevin: If you can forgive the singer his shaky voice (it’s not me), then you might appreciate this parody of the Gather Hymnal: Especially you, Kevin, since you find yourself composing inappropriate lyrics for it — well, it’s already been done for you! (I died when I heard what he’d done to “Here I Am, Lord”.)

  • Anthony – Great video. The same analysis (no spoilers) of “Here I Am, Lord” is in the book, Why Catholics Can’t Sing. You’ll never hear that hymn the same way again.

  • I especially dislike “Take and Eat.” For some reason it makes me think of cannibalism instead of the Eucharist. There are some hymns I enjoy from my school days at an Episcopal school. I really like this one for children, and the Catholics I know don’t seem to know it. Not appropriate for mass, but maybe for religious education classes.

  • I am new at being Catholic, having come into the church 4 years ago from a protestant background. I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be? In my former Episcopal church, shallow theology reigned, but we sang some deeply meaningful, historical and lovely hymns. Oh, well, clearly converts are not here for the music, but for the Eucharist!

    But a main concern I have is that when this subject is discussed, the fallback position seems to be Gregorian Chant. Everything would be better if we had Gregorian Chant back! GC may be beautiful and profound, but for the convert, it is incomprehensible. I know, I know, we can learn. But I am overwhelmed with learning, and I may not have time to learn another language in the time I’ve got left. Could the church not unleash a creative and profound new form of hymnody/chant combining music AND Theology – maybe a whole new form that feeds our prayer through use of the vernacular. Isn’t that what Gregorian Chant did in it’s day?

  • You have named the leader on my most despised hymns list – not so much because of the words as the terrible “melody.”
    The nastiest of all Communion songs, though, has got to be “There is plenty of bread at the feast of life………” It’s appropriate for dancing in to a bacchanalia – not receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion!

  • “I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be?”

    The short answer Dawn is that the Church in this country and much of the West has undergone a musical “Babylonian Captivity” by some Catholics who came of age in the Sixties and the Seventies and are intent on their banal gibberish being almost the only music heard at Mass. Time will take care of this problem. (Since I came of age in the Sixties and the Seventies I may not live to see it, but I assume if, by the grace of God, I reach Purgatory there will be magnificent hymns, not to mention the beatific sounds of Heaven. In Hell I suspect the musical taste will reflect…best not to go there in both senses of that phrase!)

  • Oh Thank you Fr Z…THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! I so much long for sacred silence during Mass and after Mass as well when currently the second miracle is performed and the sanctuary is miraculously turned into a social hall. As for the music…I truly miss the sacred liturgical music now only heard either during Tridentine Masses or when listening to Masses on TV usually celebrated by the Holy Father. I am a revert…six years now having been away for 45 years and now near 64y/o. I long for reverence in Mass and in Church generally. I long for the space to encounter Christ that sacred silence affords. I long to forget myself and relish in the person of Christ before me. But my question to you is ‘How or what can anyone do to bring this back? Our pastors seem disinterested and more influenced by what is perceived as the will of the congregation. It is not enough to just complain or say only if.. What concretely can we do?

  • Volunteer for the choir and begin exercising an influence over song choices. I truly believe that a lot of the atrocious hymns are deeply unpopular but too many Catholics are content to stay in the pews and do a slow burn as they hear a hymn they hate endlessly recycled Mass after Mass.

  • Pinky

    It’s like starting a Mass with a Hare Krishna song.

    you neveer heard of the Christmas Caroll
    “We wish you a hare Krishna”

  • George Weigel on bad Catholic hymns:

    “For classic Lutheran theology, hymns are a theological “source:” not up there with Scripture, of course, but ranking not-so-far below Luther’s “Small Catechism.” Hymns, in this tradition, are not liturgical filler. Hymns are distinct forms of confessing the Church’s faith. Old school Lutherans take their hymns very seriously.

    Most Catholics don’t. Instead, we settle for hymns musically indistinguishable from “Les Mis” and hymns of saccharine textual sentimentality. Moreover, some hymn texts in today’s Catholic “worship resources” are, to put it bluntly, heretical. Yet Catholics once knew how to write great hymns; and there are great hymns to be borrowed, with gratitude, from Anglican, Lutheran, and other Christian sources. There being a finite amount of material that can fit into a hymnal, however, the first thing to do is clean the stables of today’s hymnals.

    Thus, with tongue only half in cheek, I propose the Index Canticorum Prohibitorum, the “Index of Forbidden Hymns.” Herewith, some examples.”

  • An excellent discussion on bad Catholic hymns:

    I love this comment:

    “The problem with these hymns is that they date very badly: they may have been passible in the 60?s or 70?s (though even as a kid in the 70?s, I remembered these hymns as sounding pretty “dorky”), but they sound even more pathetic today – sort of like the aging hippy trying to “get down” with the kids. Really good hymns, like those of Gregorian chant, are timeless. But if one were making a list of the best Catholic hymns, I’d probably put “Holy God We Praise Thy Name,” near the top of the list along with hymns I remember singing in my childhood during Benediction service, “O Saving Victim,” and “Tantum Ergo.” They still send shivers up my spine!”

  • Way up there on my list for worst hymn would have to be the “We come to tell our story, we come to break the bread” one. Ack.

    I’d put that down as significantly worse than Gather Us In.

  • Unfortunately, “Taste and See” seems to be a popular Communion song in these parts.

    I am not proud of having been a lapsed Catholic for many years, but after a long absence you do notice changes in liturgical fashion. “Sons of God, Hear His Holy Word” – named the worst hymn by the FT writer – was a ’70’s staple at my parent’s old parish. I haven’t heard it since then. But to my mind, it’s far from being the worst. I haven’t heard “Lord of the Dance” in at least 30 years and for that I heartily thank God. Like a FT commenter said, I used to hear versions which sounded like Michael Flatley and crew were going to run out of the sacristy any second and start line dancing.

  • Dawn: “I am new at being Catholic, having come into the church 4 years ago from a protestant background. I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be?”

    I am a convert myself and wondered the same. Most of my favorite hymns of youth seem far more substantial and reflective than what I typically grew up with. Thomas Day’s Why Catholics Can’t Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste was helpful reading.

  • “I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be?”

    It’s even more puzzling when you consider the legacy of fantastic classical music inspired by — and written for — the liturgy by the greatest masters of the Western hemisphere. Not only a triumph of bad taste but also the victory of historical short-sightedness and an absurd worshipping at the Altar of the Trendy. … Or, at least, what was trendy almost fifty years ago.

  • My earlier post was written before I scrolled up and saw Mrs. Zummo’s. So it’s “Take and Eat,” not “Taste and See,” I guess. My bad. I confess to trying to block the song out of my brain whenever I hear it and to focus all my attention on the Real Presence. I suppose I’ve been successful, since I couldn’t even recall the actual name of the hymn – only that I dislike it for exactly the same reason Mrs. Zummo does.

    I’ve never heard “Anthem.” From all accounts I should consider myself lucky.

  • Even at Churches which otherwise have good music, most Communion hymns are quite awful. Are there any good Communion hymns? And I second my wife’s take on “Take and Eat.”

  • That is indeed a beautiful hymn. Unfortunately I rarely if ever hear it as a Communion hymn.

  • We have a volunteer cantor who loves singing it at communion. The advantage of being in a small parish: no budget for “professional” songsters.

  • I have to wonder – is the problem of terrible hymns an issue throughout the Catholic world, or just the Anglosphere part of it? Are churchgoers in Rome, Paris, Manila and Rio suffering through tripe produced by their own versions of Marty Haugen? Somehow it’s difficult to imagine parishioners in, say, Munich or Vienna droning along to the Germanic equivalent of “On Eagle’s Wings.” I doubt that the Holy Father distributes Communion to the strains of “Take and Eat.”

    It would be nice to have a reader from or familiar with the liturgy in a non-English speaking country enlighten us. Mundabor?

  • @Donna V:

    I’ve lived in Spain for some years and spent some time in Mexico and Argentina, as well. I can assure you that bad liturgical music is also widely present in Hispanic countries’ Masses, as well. There are always parishes with excellent music, of course, and perhaps even more than we have here in the States (percentage-wise), but I’ve heard a number of these awful “hymns” by Haugen, et al translated into Spanish and accompanied by guitars and poor singers–UGH! “Pescador de hombres” (“Fishers of men”) is an especially egregious and insipid hymn, which I believe was actually composed in Spanish first, then translated into English some time ago. But I’ve heard “Gather Us In” and “On Eagle’s Wings” in Spanish masses in those countries, as well.

  • Thanks for the reply, Kevin. Yuck, how depressing to think of “On Eagle’s Wings” spreading into the non-English-speaking Catholic world as well.

  • I am in my early 60’s and have little hope that this will change in my lifetime or even soon thereafter. So much has been undermined by my generation in our Church, it would take a revolutionary Pope to fix this mess or a lengthy series of Popes gradually changing so many things that need to be changed. Sadly, I seriously doubt such changes could come from below. The laity is too weak (and this is not necessarily a bad thing) and much of the clergy is wrong headed and still trained to be. The so-called music ministers seem hopeless and/or impotent. The entire abolition of singing at Mass would be preferable to the current situation, in my view. A (short) list of the only songs permitted would be an alternative but, even at that, I can only shudder to think what the US bishops’ bureaucracy would put on that list. Sigh! When the end comes closer, I will put together my list for my funeral and that gives me some comfort but must leave it to my wonderful wife to make sure nothing weird gets in.

  • Dear Pinky: You’ve got it backwards, I think. Holst wrote the hymn tune “Thaxted” first and then incorporated it into The Planets as Jupiter. In my diocese we sing it as “O God, Beyond all Praising” and the words are actually pretty good – “we worship you today, and sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay.” Try learning the words to a decent version and singing along with Jupiter.

  • …and to the lady in her 60’s – so am I – how do you like “Taste and see” sung to a slow version of the Wyatt Earp TV Theme? yggg.

  • The hymns I remember from my youth were different in two respects. First, they were more theological (even though some of them were written by the Wesley brothers). They were hymns about the Trinity and Mary. I think half of them rhymed “Son” and “one”. The other thing that stands out about them, I don’t know exactly how to describe. Musically, they were more baroque than romantic. They were 3/4 or 4/4 time, solidly built. They weren’t written for impassioned songleaders to interpret.

  • I am an organist/accompanist in a local parish. It seems like due to circumstances beyond my control, my task not to help facilitate a good liturgy, but to try and make it the least horrible as possible. That’s very hard to do. Can anyone relate to the following?

    1. The Gather hymnal reigns supreme. Why are we required to sing the awful stuff within its pages, just because GIA publishes it?

    2. I do not make the musical selections. They are given to me by the others…liturgy planners…etc. Because of the wide array of options in Gather, any liturgy can and often does have a mix of: a song by Marty and company, maybe an African American style piece, a tradional hymn (protestant or Catholic) and maybe something scored for drums/bass/keyboard that sounds more like happy hour at the Leopard Lounge than church. The result is that there is no continuity, no unified sound. What is the music supposed to sound like…who knows?? Proponents of this would say it represents “diversity” but I would say it represents the church having lost a musical identity.

    3. The songs are always “lead” by a cantor at a microphone, creating a very artificial sound. Why is this necessary? Why is the organ not deemed suitable to lead the singing? What’s even better is when there is a deacon who is very zealous for singing, but somewhat off pitch and always behind the beat, who has a very hot lapel mic. Then it becomes a contest between the deacon and cantor for who to follow.

    4. The insipid, banal and borderline blasphemous lyrics of some of the songs. Last week, being Mothers Day, we had to sing “Hail Mary…Gentle Woman.” Ugh. What about the part that references Mary as “morning star” and “gentle dove”…um, the last time I checked, Jesus is the Morning Star and the Holy Spirit is the Dove. Does anyone ever read these lyrics?
    What do they even mean sometimes? Usually they just mean some lame brain is trying to come up with some stupid rhyme that matches the equally lame line that just preceded it. As long as were talking “worst songs”, “All that we Have, and all that we offer…” really ranks up there.
    Ugh. But it is a favorite for the presentation of gifts….simply because it has the word “offer”. BUT, the congregation squaks out a few of the insipid lines, and so boom…”active participation” is achieved…therefore…SUCCESS! No matter if everything is horrible musically, stylistically, and theologically.

    I could go on and on but I’ve probably said far too much already. Initially, back in my naive days, I wanted to be a force for creating a better liturgy, but across the boards in US parishes, I think that goal is beyond hope.

  • Very well said James. Your comment hits the nail right on the songbook of so much that is wrong with the truly bad music prevalent in Catholic parishes today.

  • I left the church specifically because the Masses are simply not uplifting and the music is dreadfully depressing. I call it dying cow music. My daughter has changed to a Zion church and I’m considering a Baptist church. Just can’t sit through another unmotivating, soul sucking Mass. White, old men in charge, you’re not going to make very much progress in change.

  • Gee, Helen — I can’t help being white, and I can’t help being in my fifties. It’s puzzling and sad that you’d give up Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament because of songs sung by old white priests. If your pastor apologized for his age, skin color, and musical taste would that keep you from leaving the Church founded by Jesus? Almost as importantly, does being judged “by the content of your character rather than by he color of your skin” include everybody, or only for folks that aren’t old white men?

  • Well this while old man agrees with Helen insomuch as the music of so many Masses really is depressingly bad. But I suppose that is where our agreement ends. First, leaving the Church because the Mass is insufficiently uplifting is unthinkable. Even I’m not that ego-centric — and I’m a lawyer! Second, I sort of doubt that Helen and I would be moved by the same tunes. I like jazz ok and blues a lot, but not for Mass sorry. I’m not there to be entertained really, but I realize I’m odd that way.

    Now for some goodies:

    Now Thank We All Our God
    Holy Holy Holy
    Holy God We Praise Thy Name
    Come Holy Ghost
    How Great Thou Art (ok not strictly Catholic, but orthodox anyway)
    Immaculate Mary
    Faith of Our Fathers
    Oh God Almighty Father

    My final semi-rant: I have no problem with a choir reserving one song which they offer as a gift to God and his people, but I really do wish choir directors would choose hymns that are singable by normal folks — you know with normal octave ranges and with recognizable melodies. Even some outstanding choir directors are so intent on choosing the most perfect song for that day’s readings, we end up hearing it at most once every three years — in which case it is unrecognizable and therefore unsingable. End of semi-rant.

  • And I forgot to add: Oh God Beyond All Praising. Disagree with Pink on that — Agree with MEW. When properly done, very powerful hymn.

  • Hate Hate Hate the Taize music. As a 20 year member of several choirs, I dread singing that insipid “We have come to share our story…” ad nauseum. I would not, however, leave the sanctuary of the Blessed Church and the Holy Eucharist, for a church with a better playlist.

    At masses where we sing some of the classics hymns as well as spectacular choral peices (Ave Verum, Ave Maria, Panis Angelicus), the parishoners take notice. Sometimes I wish that the choir directors would take more notice, and change.

    PS – I don’t want to “Sing a New Church Into Being”, I like the one Jesus created, thank you very much.


Friday, May 6, AD 2011

US: House Passes Permanent Ban on Abortion Funding – Kevin J. Jones, CNA

Does State of the World’s Mothers Rep. Show Best Performers? – C. Moynihan

Out of the Porn Darkness – Austin Ruse, The Catholic Thing

Consort Profile: Empress Maria Theresa of Austria – The Mad Monarchist

The Great Lie: Pope Benedict XVI On Socialism – Father Robert Sirico, IC

Cool Discovery About the Birth of Christ! – Jimmy Akin,

Vocations in the Wake of Scandal – Monsignor Charles Pope, Archd. of Wash.

US: Historian or Fraud? – Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Get Religion

Vatican Pledges Penal Measures Against Canadian Bishop – Zenit

‘Viewpoint-Based Restriction’ – California Catholic Daily

Alaskan Bishops Listen to Victims in Effort to Bring Healing – Effie Caldarola

Pres. Obama is Right About Osama: ‘Justice Has Been Done’ – Wm Oddie, CH


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Controlling Catholic Media

Friday, May 6, AD 2011

One of the notable things about Catholicism is that it has a central teaching authority such that it is possible to say with a fair degree of certainty (at least on many doctrinal topics), “The Church teaches X” or “The Church does not accept Y as true.” By comparison, if you want to say something about “What Muslims believe” or “What Baptists believe” much less “What Buddhists believe”, the best you can do is a cite a number of authorities and recognize what the preponderance of them appear to say. (Even this gets very tricky, as different people will have different standards as to who is an acceptable authority.)

Given this, Catholics often suggest it would be a good idea if there were more quality control over who got to go around labeling things as Catholic. Conservatives sometimes ask why it is that Notre Dame and Georgetown are still allowed to call themselves Catholic universities, and make noises that someone should “do something” about publications like Commonweal and National Catholic Reporter. On the flip side, once and a while one hears more left-leaning Catholics ask why it is that the bishops don’t do something to about the largely right-leaning Catholic blogsphere, or reign in venues such as EWTN or Real Catholic TV.

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10 Responses to Controlling Catholic Media

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  • Never do anything that is completely futile is usually a good maxim to live by and attempting to control the flow of information and opinion in the age of the new media would not only be futile but impossible. However, it should be possible for Rome to exercise control over what religious orders and colleges affiliated with the Catholic Church do publish. Every orthodox Catholic knows how well that has worked out since Vatican II, and as a result much of the Catholic new media has grown up partially in reaction to the fairly heterodox messages promulgated by quite a bit of the media directly affiliated with the Church.

  • It doesn’t seem too impracticle, at least at the university level, for some more stringent quality control to exist. I forget the name of the document, but they seem to have tried that to some extent with requiring the sign off on teaching Catholicism as it is represented by the Magisterium. Enforcement requires not only standards, but a way of effectively determining who does/does not meet them, and communicating the results to interested parties. The Newman Society seems to do a fairly good job of it, but how many prospective Georgetown students listen to them (if they are even interested in GT b/c of its “Catholic” identity)? I’d be willing to bet the majority of students (and probably parents) could care less about ND or Gtown’s Catholic identity – they have more secular motives – the prestige of the degree in getting a job.

  • However, it should be possible for Rome to exercise control over what religious orders and colleges affiliated with the Catholic Church do publish.

    I’d certainly agree, in that Rome has a fair amount of say on who runs religious orders, and it’s Rome’s job to make sure that those orders are run in a way which bring their members (and those ministered to by them) closer to Christ rather than leading them further away. If an order is running a university or publication which is teaching all sorts of wrong stuff, I think clearly Rome ought to ask them (forcefully) to clean the situation up.

    Related to this is the (I hope) obvious point that a Catholic college or publishing operation shouldn’t simply teach or print anything that comes over the transom. If they consider themselves Catholic, it’s their job to disseminate only what they believe to actually be the truth. (And if what they believe is the truth doesn’t line up with the Church’s teaching, they clearly have some thinking to do.)

    What I would consider a big problem, though, would be for individual bishops or even the bishops conference to start stepping in and either directing or shutting down Catholic media options. In a perfect world, this would be done to guard the faith (though in a perfect world, it would be unnecessary) but in reality it seems to me about as likely that such powers would be used to shut down Ignatius Press or First Things as it would be to reign in Commonweal or National Catholic Reporter.

  • I generally agree with this article. There is always a tension between freedom and authority, and as you note, the exercise of authority has limited effectiveness. But there are three things that the occasional “quashing” does accomplish. It communicates that there are standards; it makes it clear that the Church enforces those standards; it clarifies the teaching of the Church. The first one typically impacts those who are ignorant of the faith; the second one, those who teach; the third, those who receive teaching. All three are important. I think we underestimate the impact of the first effect.

  • When I think of freedom, as far as the media is concerned, I think of our diocesan paper. Publishes from a leftist perspective. Even ran an editorial against Salt and Light radio when if began in the diocese because it carried so much programming from EWTN. Rarely publishes a letter contrary to its editorial positions and when it does its usually a poorly written one. Then follows up immediately with its own position and selective quotes from CST.

    So when done in charity and truth, I think freedom is good, Christian reality.

  • RIP Father Richard John Neuhaus. From WSJ 1/10/2009 “Remembrances.”

    “He believed ‘they’ had gravely distorted Vat II so that ‘much of what is called Roman Catholic Christianity is in fact apostate.'”

    Neuhaus’ Law: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

    Opinion is not truth.” Plato

  • It seems to me a part of the great wisdom of the Church that it adopts a negative position with respect to publications. This is the meaning of “nihil obstat”. It covers doctrine; but not stupidity.

    Cardinal Dulles [RIP] had no problem with either nihil obstat or the imprimatur. It is generally persons of lesser intellectual ability who try a run around.

  • Instead, perhaps predictably, it was the texts from the three largest mainstream textbook publishers (the ones, perhaps coincidentally, with the resources to market most effectively to the diocesan education office) that were approved, and parishes that had been using books from Ignatius Press or the Baltimore Catechism were instructed to stop.

    I do not think better marketing was the reason the education office prohibited the use of texts from Ignatius Press. The Church’s middle-management is a gift that keeps on giving for harvesters of irony (or outrage).

    I suspect domestic corporation law would inhibit the degree to which the Holy See or the bishops to discipline bad institutions. If that be the case, the options on the table would be to remove the institution from the Catholic Directory and pull any clergy or religious employed by the institution on pain of sanctions up to and including excommunication. Even if the bishops have the lawful authority to purge an institution, you have the problem of recruiting capable personnel for positions vacated. There is a talent pool only for a modest run of instutions, not 220-odd institutions with several substantial universities among them. There are 10 institutions in Upstate New York which are foundationally Catholic. I doubt you would be able to save more than one or two. You’ve got to let the rest go.

The ‘Eathen

Friday, May 6, AD 2011

The fourth in my ongoing examinations of the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.  The other posts in the series may be read here, here and here.  Kipling was a passionate man in his likes and dislikes, and always wore his heart firmly attached to his sleeve.  Throughout his career he championed the rankers and non-commissioned officers in the British Army.  He rightly thought that the men who were at the sharp end of the stick in battle often got the short end of the stick outside of battle.  Kipling never forgot about them, and he made certain his readers never forgot about them, making them the subject of many of his poems, books and short stories, and constantly reminding the British that their nation and empire relied upon the raw courage of men too often regarded as scum by civilians.  Kipling didn’t romanticize them, he knew them too well for that, but he did recognize their virtues as well as their vices, and honored them for the courage and good humor with which most of them went about their dangerous tasks.  One of my favorite poems of Kipling is The ‘Eathen, written by Kipling in 1895, which is Kipling’s salute to the British non-com, and a searching look at how a slum recruit becomes a good one.

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5 Responses to The ‘Eathen

  • “Ye may talk o’ gin and beer
    When yer quartered safe out ‘ere.
    And, yer sent ta penny fights and Aldershot it.

    But when it comes ta slaughter
    Ye’ll do yer work on water
    And lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im what’s got it.”

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  • From Piet – Homage to Boer ‘Soldiers’”
    (Regular of the Line)

    “I DO not love my Empire’s foes,
    Nor call ’em angels; still,?
    What is the sense of ’atin’ those
    ’Oom you are paid to kill??
    So, barrin’ all that foreign lot
    Which only joined for spite,?
    Myself, I’d just as soon as not
    Respect the man I fight.”

    From “Fuzzy Wuzzy”

    “‘E rushes at the smoke when we let drive,
    An’, before we know, ‘e’s ‘ackin’ at our ‘ead;
    ‘E’s all ‘ot sand an’ ginger when alive,
    An’ ‘e’s generally shammin’ when ‘e’s dead.
    ‘E’s a daisy, ‘e’s a ducky, ‘e’s a lamb!
    ‘E’s a injia-rubber idiot on the spree,
    ‘E’s the on’y thing that doesn’t give a damn
    For a Regiment o’ British Infantree!
    So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
    You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
    An’ ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ‘ayrick ‘ead of ‘air —
    You big black boundin’ beggar — for you broke a British square!”

  • Don

    Reading Gunga Din, I could here are Vietnam veteran sergeants saying in effect

    Now in Nam’s sunny clime,
    Where I used to spend my time
    A-servin’ Lyndon Johnson,

    Undoubtedly his lyrics cleaned up for family hour but they are the authentic voice.

    Last December was \Kipling’s 150th Birthday.

  • Hank, for those on the sharp end of the stick the military experience tends to resonate the same in many ways, no matter the time and place. When I was in Army ROTC in the Seventies, I heard many a war story about Vietnam from a Major who had served with the Rangers over there. He married a Vietnamese lady and fell in love with the people and their culture.


Thursday, May 5, AD 2011

The Removal of Bp. Morris Was a Long Time Coming – Noel Debien, ABC

Ask Tony: Monsignors & Cardinals – Anthony S. Layne, The Impractical Cth

US: Why ‘Republican’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Catholic’ – Joe Heschmeyer, Shmlss Ppry

There Be Dragons, in 30 Seconds! – Steven D. Greydanus, Nat’l Cth Register

You Know Who are Really Obsessed with God? Atheists. – Carl Olson, IIS

Has Science Buried God? – William West, MercatorNet

Themis – Tom Howard, InsideCatholic

The Exegesis of the Reformers: Authority Redux – Doctor Jeff Mirus, Cth Cltr

US: New CCHD Youth Campaign to Fight Poverty – Tancred, The Epnyms Flwr

Community Col. Cops Settle Lawsuit Over Arrests of Pro-Lifers – Cal Cth Dly

Grace is Not Rationed – Father Philip Neri Powell O.P. Ph.D., DDMHA!

Because of Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Thoughts On War – Frank Weathers, YIMC


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Save Us From the saVE Act

Thursday, May 5, AD 2011

You might think that the following snippet is from The Onion.  Oh, that it were.

A new law proposed in the Senate would require universities to have stricter policies against sexual harassment and have mandatory relationship training–and some free speech groups say there are problems with the law.

Earlier this month, Sen. Bob Casey, D-PA., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced the Campus Sexual Violence Act (The Campus saVE Act) which would require universities to enforce new disciplinary guidelines against crimes of sexual violence. The law would amend the existing Clery Act, passed in 1990, which requires universities to report all crimes committed on campus.

While the law attempts to define and combat all manners of sexual harassment, it would also require all incoming freshman and university employees to attend mandatory classes on dating and healthy relationships.

There’s really one reaction appropriate for something like this.

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4 Responses to Save Us From the saVE Act

  • In fairness to FIRE, the most salient of their activities is legal representation of students in the cross-hairs of college administrations. They would tend to view the problem through a prism ground according to what they do all day. (One suspects that the reporter may have truncated the gentlemen’s remarks as well, adhering to a journalists’ template which sees all social phenomena in terms of conflicts over individual rights and entitlements).

    Heather MacDonald has treated the likely source of this legislation here:

    These people have a durable grift.

    You have to wonder about the mentality of Casey and Murray. Between them, they have been in electoral politics for 40 years. You think that would suffice to persuade them not to take what a lobbyist tells them at face value.

  • My guess is that the law ties the requirements to federal funding for universities, which would avoid the constitutional issue.

  • Reason enough to end state patronage of philanthropies.

  • UVA was one of the first to sell-out in ordler to stay in sugar daddy’s good graces:

George Washington and the Divine Author of Our Blessed Religion

Thursday, May 5, AD 2011


A contemplation of the compleat attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended against so formidable a power cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.

                                                                       George Washington

In 1783 the Revolutionary War was coming to a close, Washington now waiting for negotiations to conclude and the British to evacuate New York.  On June 8, 1783 he sent a circular letter out to the states discussing his thoughts on the importance of the states remaining united, paying war debts, taking care  of the soldiers who were wounded in the war and the establishment of a peace time military and the regulation of the militia.  It is an interesting document and may be read here

Washington ends the letter with this striking passage:

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2 Responses to George Washington and the Divine Author of Our Blessed Religion

Osama bin Laden and 1848

Wednesday, May 4, AD 2011

In 1848 the quiet of mid-nineteenth century Europe was shattered in a wave of revolutions throughout the continent.  Beginning in France in February, a wave of revolutions began that would ultimately engulf 50 states in Europe and Latin America.  Some succeeded and some failed, but at the end Europe and the world was a very different place.  People who lived through this stunning year wrote with disbelief as well established governments were suddenly toppled by popular uprisings.  History often proceeds at a fairly stately pace, and change can be imperceptible.  At other times History moves with a lightning pace and dramatic changes occur almost literally over night.  In 1989 we saw a similar year of revolutions in Eastern Europe  where the Communist regimes vanished like chaff before a driving wind.  The Arab world is experiencing a similar year of revolution this year, and the year is but little more than a third gone as of this writing.

Thus far governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen have been toppled.  Libya is in the grip of civil war.  The Syrian government is making war against its own people as a popular uprising continues.  Major protests have occurred in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Morocco and Oman and minor protests, so far, in Djibouti, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauretania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Western Sahara.  In the age of the internet, blogs, facebook, twitter and ubiquitous cell phones, it is simply no longer possible for most autocratic regimes to keep their peoples ignorant of developments around the globe, and with each government that falls the movement grows throughout the Arab world to replace highly unpopular dictatorial regimes. 

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8 Responses to Osama bin Laden and 1848

  • Interestingly, In “The Future Church”, John Allen makes a very similar albeit cautious prediction about the direction of the Arab world. Quite remarkable given that this book was penned 18 months ago or so, before the recent uprisings.

  • I don’t calculate measurable correlation. I guess the Arab spring will be as efficacious as the 1848 liberal revolution.

    BTW. Osama needs a new make-up artist.

  • 1848 was mixed T. Shaw, but overall it did start sounding the deathknell of autocratic monarchies and multi-ethnic empires in Europe. Big changes are up in the Arab world. I think it is too early to say whether these changes when viewed in toto will be good or bad for the US, but it is beyond question that the Arab world at the end of the year will have undergone more rapid change than we have seen in one year in that part of the world since World War ii. Opportunity and danger both present themselves to us.

  • Don

    An interesting corollary.

    The revolutions of 848 followed the crop failure and hard winter of 1847. I gather it was like the African famines of recent decades in the dead of a European winter. This was just before the development of the rail road that made it possible to move food to a famine stricken area, it was leave or strave. The riots Paris in February 1848 were food riots, most of the other political trouble has it’s origin in a food shortage. Of course all sorts of groups hijacked the legitimate concerns to support their favorite cause. This of course is the origin of the famous Communist Manifesto” exploiting a major natural disaster for political gain. This is the cause of the Irish potato famine that sent many Irish to the US, and many groups such as the German immigrants whose ancestors insist the fled oppression were really fleeing famine.

    Annia Ciezadlo in Foreign Affairs suggests a more basic commodity is involved – Bread.
    Most Middle East countries subsidize the price of bread. The rising cost of bread is forcing them to raise the price. Not anywhere like 1848 but resulting in unrest. Let Them Eat Bread

    Or my shorter summary Bread and Oil

    As to where it will all go . . .? ? ?

  • Fascinating Hank. Years of Revolution like this remind me of how little we still understand ourselves. Man, I think, will always remain a mystery to man this side of the grave.

  • 1848 and onward were not good years for Pope Pius IX and the Catholic Church. He started out as a liberal and became conservative when he saw the fruits of liberalism in the wreckage left by the revolutions which swept Europe.

    In the same fashion the Arab uprisings are resulting in even more persecutions of Christians in the Middle East.

    Furthermore, I think that Pope Pius IX’s Quanta Cura is even more applicable to today’s liberalism than when it was written in 1861 (I think). It’s endlessly fascinating that we have the same problems today with liberalism and violent revolutions as the Church faced then in Europe. Man hasn’t changed one iota in spite of his science, engineering and technological prowess.

  • Pio Nono is an appealing figure to me Paul in some ways, but in the political realm his instincts were unerringly disastrous. He was one of the more incompetent rulers of the Papal States and never missed an opportunity to do damage to his cause. A man may be holy and still be a terrible secular ruler, and that is certainly the case with Pius IX. On the other hand, in the purely religious realm, his deft handling of Vatican I made for a much stronger Church to withstand the horrors awaiting it in the next century from the totalitarian regimes, and he was the first Pope to understand that using then cutting edge technology: photographs, the telegraph and mass newspapers and pamphlets, a closer bond could be forged than ever before between the pope and average Catholics. Complicated is the word that always springs to my mind when I think of the long pontificate of Pio Nono.

Choosing Hell

Tuesday, May 3, AD 2011

This post originally ran (I’ve cleaned up a few typos, but otherwise left it unchanged) back in 2006, but the topic has been on my mind, and having found it via Google while researching the topic of the Fundamental Option I decided to rerun this one rather than writing a new one.

Quite some time back, Pontifications ran a post about the theory of “fundamental option”, which it seems is the theological term for the idea that one’s salvation is based upon a fundamental choice that one makes either for or against God.

This image for the determination of one’s salvation has a certain utility in that it is simple and evocative. C. S. Lewis uses it in The Last Battle, where all of Narnia’s creatures face Aslan and swerve either to his right (with loving expressions) or to his left (with hate in their eyes). And yet, like any image or illustration, applying it absolutely leads to distortion. The ‘encounter God and choose’ image helps to emphasize that God’s judgment is not some arbitrary judgment imposed upon us. It also helps to explain how someone externally appearing to have sinned many times might be saved, while someone who to all appearances led a virtuous life, yet held pride in his heart, might reject God and be condemned. And yet, taken as an absolute of ‘salvation by choice alone’ the theory of ‘fundamental option’ becomes just as much a heresy as ‘salvation by faith alone’.

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24 Responses to Choosing Hell

  • In my eyes, the entire discussion about “fundamental choice” is easily misleading.

    The Church doesn’t say that after death there will be a moment when we can choose between (oh what a difficult choice) eternal suffering or eternal supernatural beatitude. I’ve heard of Medjugorie people who truly think this is what is going to happen, and this is extremely dangerous in my eyes.

    It is rather so, that if in our lives we decided to put ourselves willingly and deliberately in frontal conflict with God’s rule and we persevere in this to death, at that point the decision is taken altready. There is no necessity – and no possibility – of an expressly stated decision – absurd in his very object – of “oh yeah, I do want to go to hell”.

    The fundamental choice is, I would say, already included in the life we live and in the way we die.


  • Cool post. Oddly I don’t see this sort of stuff getting talked about all that much.

    I see where you’re going – and where Bl. John Paul II is going – with this thought, and I suppose we have to assume in this day and age that somebody is going to mis-interpret the idea behind the fundamental option to mean that you can choose or reject God the same way you can choose or reject sugar in your coffee. It’s just that the fundamental option is going to end up being an ontological option. A man, by his chosen mode of being, is going to choose one way or another; and that choice would have to be, I imagine, like the choice of the angels in the beginning: resolute and immutable. Unless we believe in apokatastasis now, which I suppose is also not out of the question in this day and age. :/

  • In her diary, St. Faustina writes of a “special light” or “final grace” given to every soul in need of it at the point of death. Yet, pace Mundabor, she also writes that even this is not sufficient to save everyone:

    “Although a person is at the point of death, the merciful God gives the soul that interior vivid moment, so that if the soul is willing, it has the possibility of returning to God. But sometimes, the obduracy in souls is so great that consciously they choose hell; they make useless all the prayers that other souls offer to God for them and even the efforts of God Himself…” (#1698)

    As far as I know, Bl. John Paul II did not explicitly endorse this “interior vivid moment” in his promotion of St. Faustina and devotion to the Divine Mercy.

    In his “Death on a Friday Afternoon,” Fr. Neuhaus famously endorsed the “vivid moment” doctrine, but broke with St. Faustina in saying he couldn’t imagine anyone rejecting God under the circumstances.

    But I’ve understood the “fundamental option” doctrine to refer, not to the moment of death, but to a general tendency or inclination toward God with which one may live one’s life. One corollary of this is that, broadly speaking, there’s no such thing as a mortal sin; what is traditionally called a “state of grace” would be maintained, regardless of individual acts, for as long as the actor in some sense fundamentally chooses God.

  • I guess I’m doomed to hell because as an atheist my morality prevents me from respecting, let alone worshiping for all eternity, a being that purports to be a parent but allows its children to choose suffering for all eternity in hell. I wouldn’t even want that for the Osama bin Laden.

    It’s a lot of mental justification for a behavior that’s unjustifiable.

  • Michael,

    As an atheist, aren’t you kind of assuming that there’s no point where you’d be faced with the choice? Perhaps I presume too much, but I would assume that should you find yourself in such a position, a lot of things would be up for consideration very quickly, as some basic assumptions would have changed.

  • The following is from a sermon (sadly I no longer have the name of the priest) on St. Dismas’ “final grace” conversion and salvation.

    ” . . . Suffering accepted saves this gangster and changes him from a bandit into a saint — the first who entered paradise.

    “How mistaken those who think it easy to be saved after a life of sin, through a conversion at the last minute, like the good thief’s. He had to recognize his sins, renounce his past, accept his cross in the present and desire only the reward promised by Jesus. The conditions for being saved remain the same at the last minute as before: ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me’ (Mt. 16, 24).”

    St. Dismas not only was converted and repented, he also showed Our Lord compassion and to his unrepentant companion: charity.

    “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fire of Hell; take all souls to Heaven; amd help especially those most in need of Thy mercy.”

  • “I guess I’m doomed to hell because as an atheist my morality prevents me from respecting, let alone worshiping for all eternity, a being that purports to be a parent but allows its children to choose suffering for all eternity in hell.”

    You would prefer a God that produced obedient robots or a God that gives us only an illusion of free will? Man was made in the image of God in that he has free will, just like God. As a result of that free will we can raise ourselves as high as the angels or debase ourselves as low as the demons, it is all up to us.
    As CS Lewis noted in The Great Divorce, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”

  • Who made the rule that says you either obey God or suffer eternal torture? If I say to my child not to disobey me and he does and he persists in it do I have the moral right to torture him for months on end? Of course not, but some people believe God has the moral right to do this for all eternity. And what does it tell you about a God who has to make creatures who have to obey him under threat of damnation. It’s like a little boy with his plastic soldiers and when one disobeys him and won’t stand up because it was mal formed throws it in the stove to be destroyed.

  • How odd for an atheist to take this line of attack, unless you are against capital punishment, life imprisonment and all wars. You believe that life ends at the grave. All human societies have used various forms of punishment to enforce the laws they live by which often involve depriving a person of their life or depriving them of the enjoyment of it. What you accuse God of being society always is, to one extent or another. Such power is exercised by societies justly if the punishments are based upon bad conduct of the individuals so punished. We believe that this life is only a prelude to our lives in eternity and what we do in this life has eternal significance. Through our conduct and our conduct alone, we destine ourselves for eternal reward or eternal punishment. It is you who would reduce man to a mere automaton, a toy soldier in the grip of an all-controlling deity. Instead God made us his sons and daughters, free to love and follow him, or to hate and reject him.

  • Michael,

    Part of the problem here is that you’re using a very primitive conception of hell and judgment. You say:

    Who made the rule that says you either obey God or suffer eternal torture? If I say to my child not to disobey me and he does and he persists in it do I have the moral right to torture him for months on end? Of course not, but some people believe God has the moral right to do this for all eternity.

    Now, I think that, correctly thought about, the punishment model for thinking about Hell is not unfair or irrational in the way you want to suggest, but let’s look at it this way instead, (which, incidentally, you can find in works such as C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.)

    You want to make a comparison to a parent child relationship. Say, however, that your child says to you, “I hate you. I hate everything about you. I hate your house. I hate your food. I hate being near you. I want nothing to do with you.” Is it your belief that the good parent would respond, “Too bad, I’m going to lock you in the house and hold you in a big hug all the time so that you can see how much I love you!”

    No. This would be a denial of the rebellious child’s freedom, and indeed would almost be a form of torture. A good parent would try for a long time to bring the child around, but once that child grows up there will come a point when if the only thing that child wants to do with his freedom is go live under a bridge, drink malt liquor, never shower, and never see his family, the parent is going to be forced to allow that to happen.

    By the same token, if one of God’s creatures refuses to be near God, refuses to follow God’s will, refuses to have anything to do with God, there will come a point where God, if he is to respect our freedom, must let us suffer the consequences of our choices. Even if those choices are the to all appearances a choice to be utterly miserable.

    Sin is not so very different from the more obviously destructive addictions to which humans are subject — and when we insist on giving ourselves over utterly to sin and putting ourselves at an infinite distance from God, we are, by our freedom, able to create for ourselves our very own, private… hell.

  • I generally think of the inscription that Dante put over the gates of Hell when thinking about this topic:

    Per me si va ne la città dolente,
    per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
    per me si va tra la perduta gente.
    Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore:
    fecemi la divina podestate,
    la somma sapienza e ‘l primo amore.
    Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
    se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
    Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’entrate

    Through me you go to the grief wracked city; Through me you go to everlasting pain; Through me you go a pass among lost souls. Justice inspired my exalted Creator: I am a creature of the Holiest Power, of Wisdom in the Highest and of Primal Love. Nothing till I was made was made, only eternal beings. And I endure eternally. Abandon all hope – Ye Who Enter Here.

    So to be honest, Hell itself is more an act of love than anything else. Or at least Dante chose to look at it that way. And it makes pretty good sense to me as well.

  • Der Wolfanwalt,


    One of the things that people who haven’t read Dante (or haven’t read him closely) seem not to get is that the damned in Dante are generally not being punished by some force outside themselves, their punishments are physical manifestations of the sins for which they are damned. The kingdom of hell is the land that they’ve built for themselves, in which their choices can be seen in all their reality.

    Dante himself, as the character in the poem, takes a while to catch on to this. With the lustful (who are being blown about by the wind just as they allowed themselves to be blown about by their passions) and the horders and the spendthrifts (rolling great boulders up and down hills at one another, just as they sought to make the piling up, or spending, of material things their highest good in life) he mostly feels sorry for them. It’s when he confronts the swamp of the violent, endlessly fighting each other while sunk in the mires of hatred, that he begins to really see the physical manifestations of sins as what they are and how people are simply doing now what they did before.

  • “So to be honest, Hell itself is more an act of love than anything else. Or at least Dante chose to look at it that way. And it makes pretty good sense to me as well.”

    Wolfie, I am shocked! We agree on something. The ending of the Paradiso sums up that God is Love:

    “But my own wings were not enough for this,
    Had it not been that then my mind there smote
    A flash of lightning, wherein came its wish.

    Here vigour failed the lofty fantasy:
    But now was turning my desire and will,
    Even as a wheel that equally is moved,

    The Love which moves the sun and the other stars.”

  • Hey, Donald. You know what they say…if you’re in the same religion, there’s got to be something to agree on, right? 😉

  • Note, All: The site is undergoing some IT work this evening, so if any comments vanish into the hereafter, it’s not the rage of an angry God, but simply the servers migrating.

  • Yes, indeed a child may decide to turn away from his parents, so if he or she does then the child should “be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” and where the child may cry out “have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” and “go away into everlasting punishment” where “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night…”

    How can one have a sophisticated view of this sadism?

    There is an easy way out. You just say the Biblical writers were influenced by the prevailing ethic of their time that viewed eternal damnation as acceptable for heresy but not we know that is unsupportable. And just say the concept of hell is no longer believed, at least not for a good God.

  • “Yes, indeed a child may decide to turn away from his parents, so if he or she does then the child should “be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.””

    It depends entirely upon the conduct of the person being judged by God. I can understand why a professed atheist would find the concept of judgment by a God after death that one has spent one’s life denying rather inconvenient.

    “There is an easy way out. You just say the Biblical writers were influenced by the prevailing ethic of their time that viewed eternal damnation as acceptable for heresy but not we know that is unsupportable.”

    Christ Himself spoke of Hell. Your argument is not with us, but with God, not an unusual situation for an atheist to find himself in.

  • “I can understand why a professed atheist would find the concept of judgment by a God after death that one has spent one’s life denying rather inconvenient.” First I spent the first 35 years of my life as a ardent believing Catholic and I’m old enough to remember all the pre-Vatican II sermons on hell that the Church is rather embarassed about now. Secondly I don’t find hell inconvienient, I find it immoral.

    “Your argument is not with us, but with God, not an unusual situation for an atheist to find himself in” Then you agree with me on this? :-> The trouble with arguing with God he never replies, you’a almost begin to think he wasn’t there.

  • “First I spent the first 35 years of my life as a ardent believing Catholic and I’m old enough to remember all the pre-Vatican II sermons on hell that the Church is rather embarassed about now. ”

    Now if you had only listened to them. Judging from your commenting on a Catholic website I would say you are as firm in your atheism today as you were in your Catholicism yesterday.

    “Then you agree with me on this? :-> The trouble with arguing with God he never replies, you’a almost begin to think he wasn’t there.”

    Oh he always replies. Some of us simply pretend not to hear him. The parable of Lazarus that you find so disturbing speaks to this:

    “27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
    28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
    29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
    30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
    31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

  • Bishop Fulton J. Sheen:

    A heckler asked Bishop Sheen a question about someone who had died. The Bishop replied, “I will ask him when I get to heaven.” The heckler replied, “What if he isn’t in Heaven?”
    The Bishop replied, “Well then you ask him.”

    A man told Bishop Sheen he did not believe in hell. The Bishop replied,
    “You will when you get there.”

    Pray for the conversion of sinners.

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  • The earlier exchanges are among the more interesting I’ve read on The American Catholic. I wonder if I might ask about a different part of the post though:

    “Virtue is often described as ‘the habit of doing good’ while attachment to sin is that moral habit which, once one has sinned, makes it hard to make the right choice in the future. Thus, the first time you lie in order to get out of a difficult situation, you struggle to make it come out convincingly and fear for days that your lie will be found out. But with each transgression the lie comes more naturally, until it becomes nearly impossible to tell the truth in a difficult situation — the convenient lie comes out without even thinking… It is because we are changed as moral agents by our past choices that our fundamental choice for or against God at the particular judgment cannot be divorced from the moral decisions we have made throughout our lives. Each time we sin or resist sin, makes it harder or easier to make that decision at the moment of personal judgment.”

    This does not match my experience. The opposite is often true.

    I have found that it is when I am CLOSEST to what He wants me to be that I am most and most cleverly tempted. Doing good and avoiding bad are certainly habits but I have come to think of Satan as a very real and dynamic person – one most anxious for the souls most difficult to acquire. It seems to me that he doesn’t extend more effort than is needed. If one is wallowing in a particular sin, he simply provides the opportunity and lets the sinner do the rest. However, if the sinner is truly sorry and begins to struggle for freedom, then it is though the particular attention of the beast focusses on him.

    I don’t know that I’m disagreeing but it seems to me that the more clearly one sees one’s faults and frailty, the more one clings to ever-present Mercy. Perhaps this is why greatness in human terms can be so terrible a curse.

  • It sounds to me like you’re saying one notices temptation most when one is trying to do right, but still has that strong tendency towards sinning. Which I would agree on.

    It seems to me that there is a tipping point where it becomes easier again, king of like the point in quitting smoking when you realize that at some point it turned from a constant struggle into not actually wanting a cigarette any more.