instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

At the present time

A sacrament unites the present moment, the moment in which the sacrament is celebrated, with the moment of Christ's death on the cross. (And also with eternity, with the Day that has no evening.)

This union is a for real and true thing, not merely symbolic or suggestive. If I say a sacrament causes time to fold on itself, bringing those moments into direct contact with each other, my language is metaphorical but the meaning is not. It really happens.

(This, by the way, is what makes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass a re-presentation of Jesus' sacrifice on Calvary, not a repetition.)

From this, it seems to follow that Jesus, Who after all instituted the Sacraments, intended His death to be made present -- really, truly present -- to nearly every future moment. And I'm using the word "moment," not "instant," because the sacraments (and, of course, the sacrifice from which they arise) are human events, not scientific events. On a human scale, a weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper is close enough to "every moment" for my purposes here.

What that means -- that from eternity Christ desired to be present in His suffering and death at every moment of our own lives -- could be contemplated for a lifetime.

As the Month of the Rosary winds down, though, I'll just point out that Jesus' mother was present at the moment on Calvary that is made present in the celebration of every sacrament.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rarely affirm

But, when necessary, affirm.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Alls I know about Catholic-Anglican relations is what I read in the blogs. I don't have any personal insight or opinion about the import or wisdom of setting up Personal Ordinariates, whatever those might be.

I do, though, have an opinion about the sort of reaction to yesterday's news exemplified in this comment by Michael Sean Winters:
But, I worry, too, that some of these newcomers will also be nostalgists, anti-feminists, and anti-gay bigots.
Some have suggested this translates to worrying that some of these newcomers will profess Catholic doctrine. But even granting that some Anglicans may join the Catholic Church out of sheer cussedness, I say:

So what?

I joined the Catholic Church out of sheer helplessness. When I was baptized as an infant, I not only lacked a good reason to become Catholic, I lacked any reason; I flat lacked reason altogether.

A Church that practices infant baptism is not a Church with demanding membership requirements.

I get, of course, that someone who has reached the age of reason ought to join the Catholic Church if, and only if, he believes the whole of the Catholic Faith. By the same token, though, parent ought to have their children baptized if, and only if, they believe the whole of the Catholic Faith, and I've heard no one grumble about the children of nostalgists, anti-feminists, and anti-gay bigots joining the Church.

Full communion with Christ's Church is a big deal. Too big, I'd say, for us to screw with it much. Let the Church welcome those who demonstrate the wish to be a part of her, and leave the personal judging to God.

To put it crudely, you either let in all heretics who ask sincerely, or none. Turning up your nose at only certain heresies is mere bigotry.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's never just the other guys

The reaction at Vox Nova to that same Anchoress post is of a piece with past writings at Vox Nova, and so not noteworthy for its own sake.

Still, some of the comments do counter-illustrate a lesson in generalization:
Anchoress seems like the typical Republican Catholic, where secular ideology always comes first...

This is one of my least favorite things about the Right. They complain that something is BOTH not wrong AND constantly perpetrated by their opposition...
Secular ideology doesn't come first among typical Democratic Catholics? The Left doesn't complain that something is BOTH not wrong AND constantly perpetrated by their opposition?

Different political positions are susceptible to different intellectual and moral failings. To oversimplify: I am more likely to oppose the government doing something it ought to do than is someone to my political left; I am more likely to support the government doing something it ought not do than is someone to my political right.

But this relative susceptibility arises from relative political positions. "Secular ideology always comes first" and "something is BOTH not wrong AND constantly perpetrated by their opposition" are failings unrelated to political position. We distinguish different species of political position -- left, right, however you want to carve it up -- from each other according to specific differences between them. Susceptibility to secular ideology coming first tracks with the intensity of political position, not the specific position.

This is not to say that a non-political failing can never correlate with a political position. I don't think you'll go broke, though, betting that, when someone says "the problem with Them is" something unrelated to the specific difference between Them and Us, they're basing it on their own pro-Us interpretation of the world.


It's never just the facts

In a post arguing that many of the reasons people hated President Bush are also reasons to hate President Obama, the Anchoress offers the following example:
You hate Bush because "he tortured people!"
All indications are that the torture was very limited in scope and that -- whether we are comfortable with it or not -- information gleaned through waterboarding saved lives. But the thing is, after making a big noise about "ending" torture, Obama has still left the door open even if it's just the tiniest bit, to its use, if needed. Why don't you "hate" Obama?
Now, I don't find the political question particularly interesting. I'm not even directly concerned at the moment with her apology for Bush's torture policy; it's of a piece with her past writing, and the fact that someone hasn't changed her mind in the past five months on a topic that's been in the news for years isn't noteworthy.

What I do find interesting is the lesson in how to argue counter-illustrated by her subsequent defense in the comments against someone who points out that the Church teaches torture is gravely immoral:
I wasn't talking about Gauium et Spes or anything Catholic, and I wasn't "excusing" anything; I was simply putting out the facts as we know them, as part of a much larger discussion.
Whatever she may have intended in writing that sentence, what the Anchoress did was not "simply putting out the facts as we know them."

What she did was put out two facts as we know them -- a) "the torture was very limited in scope"; and b) "information gleaned through waterboarding saved lives." (Not everyone accepts these as facts, but that's a separate discussion.) Both facts are circumstantial; that is, they deal with the circumstances in which our government tortured prisoners, not with the act of torture itself.

There may be people who opposed Bush's torture policy just because it wasn't limited enough or just because information gleaned through waterboarding wouldn't save lives. From my reading, though, I'd say the majority of the opposition was based on the nature of the act of torture itself.

The nature of the act of torture is one of the facts as we know them that the Anchoress did not put out here. The legal and social histories of torture offer many more facts as we know them which also went un-put out.

Of course, even if it were possible, there's no binding requirement that every single fact about torture as we know it be put out whenever the Bush torture policy is mentioned.

Let us not, though, think that to select the handful of facts used in an argument, or in communication in general, is an unbiased act. All communicators, and particularly the professionals, should be able to answer the question, "Why have I selected these facts and not those facts?"

If there's no reason, omit them.

It's also worth noting that rhetoric functions the way it functions, not the way the author says it does. In this case, for example, the selection of circumstantial facts that reduce moral culpability functions as a partial apology or excuse for an action, whether or not the writer says that was her intent.



Monday, October 12, 2009

Mother's Day
Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
What was that hour from which the disciple took Jesus' mother into his home? The hour of desolation, the hour in which her Son and his Master died.

In our own hour of desolation, we too may take Jesus' mother into our home.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Felix typo alert

A comment on the dotCommonweal post I linked to, about the Conservative Bible Project (which, from all evidence, is a sincere effort), states (emphasis added):
The Commonweal blog has been striking to me because of the participation of people of diverse shades of faith within Catholicism, and because they have, by and large, been conversing in an urban manner....
I'm pretty sure she means "in an urbane manner," and means it as a compliment.

The phrase "conversing in an urban manner" calls to mind Robin Williams's joke about the New York Echo. ("HELLOOOO!" "Shut the ^$#% up!")



Monday, October 05, 2009

We should call it Rock-tober

October is Proust Month!

Unfortunately, last October was also Proust Month, and last November I didn't quite get around to putting Volume II back where it belongs, so I may not make much progress this time around.

October 2009 is also the 40th anniversary of the first airing of Monty Python's Flying Circus on the BBC.

October 2009 is also the 30th anniversary of the publishing of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

And, of course, most importantly, October is the Month of the Holy Rosary.


Real Conservatives Read Greek

Mark Shea of Catholic and Enjoying It! and Eduardo PeƱalver, of dotCommonweal, both post on the Conservative Bible Project, which offers ten guidelines for a "fully conservative translation of the Bible."

It's hard to choose one favorite guideline, although "Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms" utilizes the compensating term "utilize," making it ridiculous in both form and content.

The Conservative Bible Project could be serious, or an elaborate joke, or some mix of the two. Mark -- in the spirit, perhaps, of St. Thomas, who would sooner believe that cows flew than that his confreres would lie to him about flying cows -- takes it at face value.

Eduardo hedges his bets:
It has the virtue of being funny, whether understood as satire or simply authentic insanity. It's a sad commentary on the state of our political discourse that it's so hard to tell the two apart these days.
It may be funny either way, but I don't think it tells us much about the state of our political discourse. The simple authentically insane we have had always with us, and the politicization of Scriptural translations was old news in Tynedale's day. What we have now is the Internet.