Old Oligarch's Painted Stoa

Past Posts of Note
Substantative, in chronological order
The Sunday obligation and illness: question, research & my answer

Denial of personhood: Dei Filius & Terri Schiavo

On Modesty 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Differing with Dulles 1 & 2 on pro-abort politicians

Mad About Manuals 1 & 2

Absinthe recherches early, required reading, 2, 3, 4.

First time at an abortuary

The Maundy

TPOTC impact & analysis and more

Contraception reflections 1, 2

Meiwes, propheta, übermensch

Headship Loggerheads 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

Matrix: Revolutions

Matrix: Reloaded
1, 2 & 3

Terrorist Attack Preparations, and follow-ups 1 & 2 & 3


Casuistry of Drinking

Review of Auto Focus

Parish Review 1

The Power of Shame

Biblical Hermeneutics

Ayoob on Guns

Against the Ordination of Women

Two Cents on Braveheart


Thematic Meditations

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My outburst of disgust over the recent court decision about the Pledge of Allegiance has been getting hits from far outside the blogosphere.

RobLin from AmericanConservatives.net writes:

"I agree with Old Oligarch's disgust at the judges decision, however, the response to the decision by our President, Congress and the majority of Americans reassures me that I definitely wouldn't want to live anywhere else but here.

We can't allow two misguided, arrogant judges and one athiest convince us that our entire country is screwed up."

I agree. (I said I doubted sometimes whether I want to live here, but I've never seriously entertained moving. Going back in time, yes; moving geographically, no.)

Yet my bouts of despair go a little deeper than the present decision. Since Eisenhower added "under God" to the pledge (perhaps itself a buttressing of the eroding foundations of social order? It was the 1950s after all...), we've seen the legalization of birth control, abortion, and pornography; the radical secularization of the instruments of public education, a stripping of public spaces of all forms of religious expression (unless you are deemed a protected minority, like Judaism, which gets away with Menorahs on city greens from time to time), a sequence of direct attacks on the institutions of marriage and the family -- all basically the flight of alienated, anti-religious consciousness away from the tattered remnants of Western Christianity towards a collective society wherein the will-to-libido can express itself untrammelled by regulations of the public sector. Mostly in the past 40 years.

That's what depresses me. The court's Pledge decision is only the most recent outbreak of the anti-Christian staph infection that has been spreading across the face of the country in this past half-century.

The Blogs of War has an interesting analysis of the situation. He claims that such atheist politics are only an American variation of the whining, "I'm a victim" identity politics we've seen played out ad nauseum in racial and sexual forms.

That might be the form of its expression, but I think the ultimate psychological motivation runs much deeper. The victimization schtick is only a cheap grab for political capital. The Great Urge toward unilateral social tolerance is simply the timid, bourgeios, version of the Will To Pleasure. This has been the dominant mode of post-moral political expression in the West, since we've been afraid of more Nietzschean Wills (to Power and Glory) since World War II -- or radically individualistic Wills to Pleasure for that matter (too many victims -- we like to regulate our numbers and hide them from view. Six million babies a year, all "safely" killed in clinics). Either way, it's pure crap; the absolutization of the belly, and just as much an "imposition" on me as "under God" is an imposition on atheists. There is no neutrality in this issue.

Which is why Norwegian Blogger is right when he says "Methinks there is more to this" than simply uttering an official phrase that atheists should find unintelligible. Only the most eviscerated, cowed theism has nothing to say to the public sphere. The issue is the public recognition of religion, something which the founders of this country provided for in their time of denominational strife by refusing to establish one church on the Federal level, but allowing states to do so (says Shamed, so take it up with him). They certainly did not officially restrict the involvement of religious norms in the legislative process, since these beliefs are just as vital to the health of the Republic as the citizenry's beliefs about war and the economy.

Cacciaguida is the expert on these kinds of debates, however, not me. Ask him. I myself doubt that there is any kind of logos to politics, but insofar as politics relates to man, and religion relates to man, I can tell you what is patently immoral and the forced imposition of a sham god on human nature.

On a lighter note, Norwegian Blogger also writes:

"never liked the word Oligarch, I've read too much Machiavelli for that."

I haven't liked the word "Norwegian" since the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" but I won't hold it against you. I also don't blame you for disliking an ancient Greek category if your only exposure to it is through proto-post-Christian Renaissance humanism.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/29/2002 04:53:00 AM | link

Red China Panda Porn

I hate the pandas at the National Zoo. (Zorak has already pointed this out.) To me, they are the epitome of the incessant, stupid obsessions of pop culture, and its political ramifications.

Like our other current hang-ups -- limpid-eyed, hydrocephalic Precious Moments figurines; pink plush Angels; Indian dream-catchers, and other such crap -- Americans have latched on to this damn animal and must have one. Since there's not nearly enough to go around, we settle for one at the National Zoo.

So we turn to the Chinese -- one of the most brutal, totalitarian, atheistic governments in the entire world. (But we gotta have that panda...) We fork over 10 million dollars for these lethargic, misshapen beasts which look like the bastard children of a soccer ball and a potato sack. There are at least 100 ways that money could be better spent.

To add insult to something already insipid, we don't even own the pandas. We rent them for 10 years. At which point the Chinese will probably ask for more money, after they've finished laughing all the way to the bank this time around. And of course we'll give it to them, because we gotta have those pandas.

To top it off, the beasts are too stupid to breed. So now -- I kid you not -- they are developing porno for them! Don't believe me? Read it here.

I've got a better idea. Why not shove a rocket up the hindquarters of Tian Tian and Mei Xiang and blow them up for the 4th of July? A triple independence day: From Britain, from China, and from ridiculous American obsessions.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/27/2002 12:04:00 PM | link

James Lileks asks a few pointed questions about our conflict with Islam. Tolle, lege.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/26/2002 06:23:00 PM | link

Just another insensitive anti-Muslim bigot? Rarely does this author use the polemical style:

"The point is clear in the case of Mohammed. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teachings also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men.

"As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of the truth. On the contrary, Mohammed said that he was sent in the power of his arms -- which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.

"What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning. Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Mohammed forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms.

"Nor do the divine pronouncements on the part of the preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly."
-- St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 6, 4.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/26/2002 06:01:00 PM | link

It's sh-t like this that makes me doubt whether I want to live here some days. And we wonder why the Muslims are ready to overrun us? Hopefully it will get struck down.

My only consolation is the poetic justice of the unending reich of utilitarian misery that will obtain when the atheists finally have their God-free paradise. We have a vocabulary for such a world devoid of the presence of God. It's called hell.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/26/2002 05:12:00 PM | link

Caveat lector: I've remedied my week of not blogging with an Eve-esque fit of productivity below.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/26/2002 05:59:00 AM | link

take free enneagram test

I'm a 5. Probably true for half the people on my link list. Thanks to Ted Ahlgren for this one. (Yes, I know the enneagram is somewhat kooky, pagan and/or syncretic in origins. I don't take it seriously.) I also took this:


I checked in just to the left of Ronald Reagan with a 36 on the Political Quiz. I suggest adding Attila the Hun for a score of 50.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/26/2002 05:33:00 AM | link

How English are you?. It's on four blogs I watch, so it's an official fad. My results:

"The epitome of Middle England, you prefer your Hovis to ciabatta and believe that England can win the cup this time round. You still feel frequent stirrings of patriotism, but deep down you know the world has moved on from the Empire and warm beer on village greens."

In reality, however, the results are meaningless. Unlike a great many of my conservative friends, I am a Germanophile. I instinctively chafe at Anglophilia, but I recognize it as a socio-political kissing cousin to my own conservative inclination for something more rooted than American culture. German culture is vastly superior in the vital areas of philosophy, theology, music, food and the production of fine beer. I also don't have a drop of English blood in my veins, my ethnos being entirely Austrian on my mother's side, then German, Ukrainian and Polish on my father's.

Musically, who can argue with the German contribution of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Wagner, Orff, and Strauss? Perhaps the Italians. (They're also the people I turn to for the plastic arts.) Philosophically, I confess I buy into what John Caputo calls the ridiculous Germans as heirs of the Greeks mythos, with only the slightest sense of compunction. Yes, Germany has given us Immanual Kant, but this cumbersome revival of Pyrrhonism was made necessary by the Scottish David Hume, and the Krauts have been developing intelligent post-Kantian philosophy ever since. I'll take Hegel, Husserl, Heidegger and Gadamer over any modern English philosophical product.

Theology is a mixed bag outside of the evenly matched Biblical studies, with Venerable theologian John Henry Newman and apologists Lewis, Chesterton and Belloc pitted against a fleet of German systematicians whose orthodoxy ranges from Ratzinger to Kung. That said, Anglo-analytic theology has some amazing and irrelevant failures. Call me when Richard Swinburne is done double-checking his Bayesean probablity calculation that the Resurrection is 97% likely to have happened. Dummkopf!

That said, I give you a better quiz: How German are you?. Alas, not as German as I'd like: only 62.5% percent by their rating: "Vee are not zo sure about you. You have a few sings German about you, but also a little English, a bit like zee Queen. However, you do have the potential to be a German fan, zo keep up the efficiency, grow zee mullet, and ve'll have you stay in Berlin soon." My total aversion to soccer is probably to blame.

Also try your hand shooting white owls at Barry Potter and the Stoned Philosopher.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/26/2002 04:51:00 AM | link

The Cranky Professor is in Rome right now, and recently attended the canonization of Padre Pio, now St. Pio of Pietrelcina. I've never been to Rome, so I have to read his wonderful travelogue in small doses to avoid melancholy.

Also check out his observations on the way these kinds of festivals generate changes in church literature which will help historians hundreds of years down the road figure out what happened when. He asks:

I always like to study the litany of the saints - it's a medievalist habit; one frequently can date or locate a manuscript by saint lists. This one included some folks who must be important locally - who on earth is St. Leopold of Mandic? St. Humilis of Bisignano?

I'm not a medievalist, but here's a tip I learned when studying some liturgical history. Always look at your litany of saints from a few perspectives: chronologically, geographically, according to religious orders, and according to audience or function. These last two will help you discern, for instance, whether a medieval French manuscript came from a cathedral church in Chartres or a nearby monastery or from the chapel of the royal court. (E.g., if the litany is loaded with Dominicans, for example, you can infer it came from a Dominican rite liturgy, and thus a Domincan house.)

The aforementioned "stumper" saints in the canonization liturgy of Padre Pio are good examples of these principles at work. Both St. Leopold of Mandic and St. Humilis of Bisignano are Franciscans. Leopold in particular was a Capuchin. Padre Pio likewise was a Capuchin Franciscan, so there's a connection to the religious order. An historian, working in reverse, could infer this by the invocation of obscure saints only encountered in Capuchin piety.

Function plays a role here too. The lives of these two saints resemble that of the beatus. St. Leopold, like Pio, was a great confessor, and St. Humilis, like Pio, was a counselor to Popes.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/25/2002 10:17:00 PM | link

The anniversary of the Normandy Invasion came and went without my blogging, since I was back(b)logged. And now, alas, it is too late for a gargantuan post about it. Where would one even begin? Churchill's courageous leadership? The forging of revolutionary advances in cryptography at Blatchley park? The coordination of the largest naval invasion in history? (I recently learned that Eisenhower anticipated such a brutal landing that he contacted every butcher he could find and imported tons of hog entrails to cover the practice beach, so that the men would not suffer shock upon crawling through such carnage to their objectives.) The inauguration of a half-century of French ingratitude? The last time the nation was self-consciously united around a moral cause? Perhaps our lastest tangle with militant Islam will change all that.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/25/2002 09:51:00 PM | link

New on the DC blog scene: John Lowell's Right Wing Rock Star blog. A campaign to make rock more conservative, a generous helping of social criticism about life in DC, reminiscences about the good ol' days of Martha Quinn on MTV, concert reviews, and the existential question: "Is anyone more fake than ivy leaguers?" Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Downsides to this particular Santa Claus are a Sinead O'Connor fetish, some weird but forgiveable takes on the Catholic Church, and an ambiguous conception of what the good corporate-American does after hours. I think it's a fine American tradition to come home on the weekend and slug back a half case of beer because you hate your job. (My Opus Dei friends may differ.)

And yes, John Lowell, there are people more fake than those in the Ivy League. Start by looking at Wesleyan, Smith, and all those other Ivy wannabes. I've met some truly evil people from there. Like an Everlasting Gobstopper of Fakeness, you get layers of doctrinaire liberalism, sycophantic truckling to the Ivy League's homespun nonsense, tacit envy of all those who are actually at Ivy League schools, and, in the middle, ressentiment about never being able to fully rise into another social class. If you chew on one of these long enough, not only will you find a truly sour tart at the center (pun intended), but one that bites you back. The nice thing about this type of person is that he (or she!) is predictable. He attacks on all sides -- both his superiors and his inferiors. Caught in the middle, his pretension spans the void between solidly middle-class unpretension (e.g., at state schools) and Ivy League unpretension. No one I knew at Yale thought they were a better person just because they studied there.

I dreaded meeting old high school acquaintances during college -- of course they would ask where I went to school. Half the time I said “In New Haven,” and let them presume I meant Southern Connecticut State or University of New Haven, rather than the inevitable which followed upon telling them it was Yale: “Wow! You must be like --- really smart?! What were your SAT scores? What do you do there... I only go to X. It’s a good school, but not, like, YALE or anything.” At this point I’m scanning for a bartender, or trying to feign a sudden incapacitating head injury. But the absolute worst was always meeting those people who ended up at Trinity or Wesleyian. Oddly enough, the reverse is true of those people I've met from lower-ranked Ivies. They're not edgy about their status, and at the same time, they exhibit genuine concern about what's going on in your particular college. My vote for the friendliest Ivy is U. Penn. by the way. In college, I never met a U Penn girl I didn't like. I don't think I met any U Penn guys. Perhaps that skews my prejudices. Or perhaps Mr. Lowell just needs to date a U Penn girl.

Once Lowell gets a sitemeter and an e-mail address, perhaps we can get him to contact the mothership (the Axis of Eve).

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/25/2002 07:36:00 PM | link

Omigosh. Only six shopping months left until Christmas!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/25/2002 06:59:00 PM | link

I recently read a modern novel as well. (Someone please revive my friends.) Nick Hornby's How to be Good. Strictly on an enthusiastic recommendation from a friend of mine, a German Missouri Synod Lutheran who's a writer by trade, I plowed through it. I haven't seen or read Hornby's other works (High Fidelity, About a Boy), so I can't offer any comparisons or expectations.

Upon cracking the cover, it was clear that I was in the middle of a familiar genre. The novel is unmitigatedly dedicated to exploring the moderately-liberal, upper-middle-class, politically correct morality of a Leeds couple -- and how this ethical system matches up to the unexpected introduction of a radical moral conversion which follows in the wake of the couple's confrontation with the possibility of divorce.

Don't worry, modern reader, there's no explicit mention of Christianity here. Hornby knows that's a turn-off, and after all, the book is on the New York Times bestseller list, so you know it is (German accent:) Christusrein! Or is it? It hard to imagine the radical moral conversion Hornby describes as anything else, and he doesn't put much effort into convincing you otherwise. The religious figure is called DJ Goodnews, a former ecstasy junkie and DJ turned hippie faith-healer.

Goodnews encounters David, the husband, after he's been reeling from his wife's infidelity and request for a divorce. David is a writer for a local newspaper, the self-proclaimed "Angriest Man in Holloway." His relentless acerbic denunciations of just about every minutia of modern culture have alienated his wife. Goodnews is instrumental in changing David's negative personality traits which have caused his wife's marital despair; but along with it, David becomes radically committed to an entirely different mindset about the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill and other unfortunates he would have readily attacked in his "Angriest Man in Holloway" days. His commitment is not abstract: he starts giving away his goods and putting up homeless people in his house, even convincing some of the neighbors to do the same.

Katie, his wife, finds new hope for their marriage in David's sudden and unexpected conversion, but the depth of his transformation triggers an implicit criticism of the inadequacy of their labour-party but bourgeois, armchair-activist worldview, which mixes socialism with the occasional $100 bottle of champagne. A good portion of the book is dedicated to the exploration of whether this liberalism (a/k/a What We All Learned in College) is really anything more than an upper-middle-class attempt to palliate the conscience in light of one's own relatively comfortable existence. Not a bad question, but not a particularly new one either.

Katie frequently returns to the question of whether her vocation as a doctor, their ready support of the welfare state, and the PC education of their children can ultimately justify her existence as a moral human being. As a theologian, I found this twist somewhat interesting, since it points to the inadequacy of any "works-righteousness" in light of what Katie now realizes are truly inexcusable sins in her marriage. While she concludes she hasn't yet learned "how to be good" -- and she admits that perhaps David is on a better track -- they don't wander off and join a hippie commune either. I think Hornby does a good job at assuring the reader that he won't go down this vomit-inducing road by several devices, including the general sketchiness of Goodnews and the clearly tentative nature of David's newfound zeal.

While David's radical conversion has changed his attitude toward the poor permanently for the better, his far-reaching schemes for social reform turn out to be unsustainable -- spiritually, as well as politically and financially. Here the novel makes its most redeeming point IMHO: if you want to truly struggle to right your wrongs and perform extreme acts of charity, start in your own house. While the work is harder, the problems more complicated, and the people more intractable, it is a forum for authentic moral conversion and real sustainable progress, rather than pouring a cup of charity into an anonymous sea of need or trying to architect a worldwide solution to poverty, crime and ignorance while one's own marriage slips off its mooring.

While 95% of the book is a morality play, Hornby prescinds from penning a firm conclusion to the story. Coward. Perhaps he feels it would have been too preachy. After all, it would involve advocating a paradigm for faltering marriages -- one which requires that the married couple be willing to make certain radical commitments to each other and to the fullest sense of their vocations as human beings. Perhaps I'm just not accustomed to impotent modern literature which cannot achieve a true comedy, one free of irony or some kind of permanent ambiguity. The inability to conclude a novel with "And they lived happily ever after" is certainly not unique to Hornby, so I don't fault him for it.

Over all, it was an enjoyable quick read. He throws in a number of humorous jabs at conventional liberal morality, which are somewhat funny, and probably funnier if you're not already a right-wing curmudgeon like me. He raises some deep and interesting questions, and provides only somewhat interesting attempts at a solution.

Dick Clark, I'd give it a five. It's got vivid, clean prose, and a beat the young kids can dance to. It's got a hook that keeps you reading midway through, but the conclusion needs a remix at the studio.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/25/2002 07:49:00 AM | link

A great book on guns for the novice: Massad Ayoob's In the Gravest Extreme: The Role of the Firearm in Personal Defense.

Recommended by a buddy of mine who's a Federal Agent on our most recent afternoon out shooting. It's an all-around beginner's introduction to the legal, moral and tactical issues surrounding handgun ownership.

I was skeptical about a book by a man named Ayoob. That faded quickly. An well-known American marksman, weapons expert, former cop and crime scene investigator, Ayoob is a widely recognized authority who has written many books and whose eponymous stance is currently the favored battle posture for street-fighting federal agents. Introduced to the safe handling of guns by his father at a wee five years of age, and shooting by twelve, Ayoob also knows from personal experience that our right to bear arms can often mean the difference between life and death. When he was a teenager, three armed men robbed the family jewelry store, shooting down his father during the raid. Ayoob shot and killed two of the robbers, shot and paralyzed the third, and saved his father's life (and the family livelihood) by his clear thinking and courage at an early age. He knows from personal experience the significant risks and great advantages facing the armed private citizen.

Even though Ayoob's a cop, the book is strictly written for the average citizen. As such, the book calls for great restraint when considering whether to use lethal force. He carefully reviews all of the ways one can land on the wrong side of a (liberal) jury even when you're the innocent party confronted by an armed aggressor.

He also does a great job at dispelling the idea that one is suddenly equal to an armed opponent merely by having a gun. Ayoob points out a variety of reasons why the street thug probably still has the advantage, and how to avoid common mistakes in an escalating conflict. (Drawing on a drawn gun is suicide, throwing $50 to a robber will cost you less financially and emotionally than if you kill him, three ways a man with a knife can kill you at 25 feet etc.)

That said, he is incredibly blunt about overall strategy: If you have to use your weapon, be prepared to keep shooting until you know the other guy is dead. I enjoyed his debunking of all the more "moderate" alternatives (shoot to scare, shoot to wound, just fire a warning shot, or draw your weapon and challenge the man to drop his). After seeing one too many a crime scene where the thug got a free lawyer and an innocent man's widow paid for his funeral, Ayoob observes again and again that hesitation in the face of a violent aggressor only means one's own death. It's a very sobering series of reflections, but as Ayoob observes: no one wants to make this kind of life-or-death decision, but it's the other man who put you in a situation in which you can't afford to err in his favor.

The book apparently caused quite a stir when it came out. Its detractors accused Ayoob of writing a book about how to shoot someone dead and get away with it. He has a few choice words for the ACLU, and several examples of where a handgun and the resolve to use it have meant the difference between life and death, or rape, or a savage beating.

Ayoob also tells you how to get a home defense plan for your house, what to look for in a weapon, a chapter just for women, and a few chapters targeted at deflating the natural male tendency to inflate one's sense of self-sufficiency just by owning a gun.

He has a few interesting examples of the way in which carrying a gun makes any reasonably knowledgeable man less prone to get into a violent confrontation, provided he knows how legally and morally vulnerable he is when throwing around threats of lethal force disproportionately. [Editorial comment: So this isn't applicable to urban "gangstas" -- the main reason responsible people have such a hard time fighting the anti-gun lobby.] Ayoob recounts armed men saying "I would have punched that wise-ass in the mouth if I hadn't been carrying," or "I didn't have to fight him to prove myself, since I had a gun and he didn't." Given that most people think to the contrary (Guns encourage men to be more violent), these were helpful stories.

One sad observation Ayoob has seen time and again comes from men who shot armed house robbers in defense of their family: 1) The men weren't prepared to face the existential realization that they've just killed a man, and 2) The man expects the wife and children to be proud of him, but often, they are estranged from the father of the family because they have just seen him take a human life, even a guilty one in their own defense. Hollywood, Ayoob maintains, is guilty of creating many such false myths about the ease of gun use and its consequences, causing a blindness to gravity of death, and an image of glamorized cowboy-style armed conflicts.

My favorite was the chapter dedicated to deflating every argument he's ever heard about why women should use some other weapon besides a gun (mace, steak knife in the purse, keys or a hat pin, a coup baton, etc). In short, the advice from women's magazines, the anti-gun lobby, or your schmarmy feminist friends will get you raped, knifed or killed faster than you can say boo.

The only drawback to the book is that it needs updating. It was written in 1980. I am sure the diverse state laws may have changed since then. Perhaps some enterprising lawyer will read it and provide an appendix. Moreover, the pistols and revolvers he reviews are all old models. I'm only a novice, but I am also guessing that the discussion of caliber and ammo types has also evolved significantly over the past two decades. At the same time, this kind of advice is the constant subject of gun magazines. Ayoob's other advice is more comprehensive and enduring.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/25/2002 05:00:00 AM | link

OK. I'm a shank. I haven't posted all week.

But I have excuses! They even include a minor car accident (everyone's fine, just a fender bender, no need to write in about it) and a new job. In college, that would certainly be enough to buy me an extension on a paper, so a fortiori for blogging.

I'm tremendously excited about the job! I actually get to teach Catholics for a change. Until now, I've taught in a secular college, to Wiccans, agnostics, disaffected Christians or angry, lapsed, half-catechized Catholics who badger me with theological topics I'm not supposed to pursue in a secular classroom. Thus I'm really looking forward to teaching young people to whom fides quarens intellectum has a meaning other than "Impenetrable Latin phrase I must memorize for the exam."

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/19/2002 05:48:00 AM | link

U.S. Scandals Are Rooted in Seminaries, Says Theologian Father Ivan Fucek of the Apostolic Penitentiary Views the Problem

ROME, JUNE 7, 2002 (Zenit.org).- An underlying problem facing the Church in the United States is that of excessive "tolerance," which has allowed conduct and teachings among seminarians that go against what the Pope says, a Vatican adviser says.

Jesuit Father Ivan Fucek, theologian of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Church's highest tribunal for "inner forum" questions (matters of conscience), made his comments as the U.S. bishops' conference prepares to meet in Dallas, Texas. The bishops' June 13-15 meeting will aim to respond to the crisis over cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests. The assembly is taking place, following John Paul II's meeting in April with representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the country's cardinals and Vatican officials.

ZENIT interviewed Father Fucek about the dimensions and implications of the problem.

Q: From your point of view, what is the characteristic of the North American case?

Father Fucek: I have been in the United States on several occasions, where I met with excellent priests and bishops. But at the same time I noted a certain passivity in accepting candidates to the priesthood with problems of sexual disorder and homosexuality -- an excessive "tolerance" dictated especially by the prevailing cultural model.

The greatest weakness was not to address the problem immediately, when it appeared. In this connection, the Holy Father's intervention was providential, a strong and clear call.

Q: Some observers in Europe think that the Pope's intervention was too energetic, because these are questions that, to a great extent, affect the bishops' decisions and ways of acting.

Father Fucek: It was necessary, because it is imperative to change in a clear way behavior that has spread in the seminaries. Although it is obvious that behind all the noise made by the media, there is the intention to denigrate the Church, at the same time it is
most important that the Church in the United States no longer tolerate certain lax attitudes and criticism of the Holy Father's moral teaching.

The possibility exists of emerging purified and strengthened from this experience, provided that there is a return to the good road. In this connection, John Paul II's intervention was perfect. There was need to intervene in a clear way. There is a good clergy in the United States, but the attitude of tolerance in face of certain problems is not marginal, but rather widespread.

The Holy Father's intervention is not a simple reprimand. It is an occasion for all that is good in the Church in the United States to emerge.

Q: But how could such a phenomenon happen?

Father Fucek: What happened in the United States reveals a serious problem of preparation and formation. Many, too many candidates to the priesthood are not sufficiently knowledgeable in Catholic morality. However, in this connection the doctrine is clear. If the candidate is a practicing homosexual, he must not be ordained. If there is only a homosexual tendency, this must be discerned.

If during all the years of his youth and later as a candidate to the priesthood he has not had homosexual relations (he has not seduced nor allowed himself to be seduced by a man), then that tendency can be regarded as a temptation, which must be conquered with the grace of God.

However, if that tendency is strong, if the candidate at times has fallen, then he must not be ordained. If the tendency is so strong that the candidate to the priesthood is afraid he will be unable to resist, then he must not be ordained.

In this sense, the doctrine is transparent. In particular, I suggest reading the "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" (see ZENIT Documents) of Oct. 1, 1986, a document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which makes explicit reference to the way one must behave in this respect.


Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/10/2002 12:14:00 PM | link

Ah, one heck of a week. Sorry for not posting. In addition to the aforementioned Friday evening liturgy, I had a job interview, and a spate of 25 exams and paper proposals for the summer course. Also:

Spent 4 hours yesterday at the Maryland Small Arms Range shooting Glocks, Tauruses and Sigs from 9mm to .45 cal with my buddy the federal agent from Arizona. Already can't wait to go back.

We all got plowed at my place later that evening at a soiree including Zorak (of course), Russo, Shamed, two blogless individuals, and Eve, who was wheeled home at 4am after nearly killing herself trying to walk on my slippery, tiled bathroom floor in those treacherous 4 inch heels. (Sounded something like this: *Thud!* "Are you alright in there Eve?" "Yeah...I'm fine." *Clunk* *Clunk* THUD! "Eve??" "Still fine...") Thank yous go out to Russo for the snacks and to Shamed for helping to make quaffable concoctions out of my mixing mistakes.

The best part may have been when a poor, unsuspecting minion of the Yale Alumni Association called in the middle of this to survey me regarding why I haven't been giving to the AYA. Four drunk Yalies couldn't resist the chance to regale her with horror stories about how the money you give to proud mother Yale may end up funding such nonsense as half-naked eco-feminists rolling themselves in mud for Earth day; "F-ck Columbus" rallies on Columbus day, or pornographic, sodomitical magazines named "My Tongue." And I forgot to add: all the abortion and birth control you can consume in four years. (I'm not kidding folks. All of this is true.)

I will blog again after I finish picking up my sticky, sodden apartment.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/09/2002 12:30:00 PM | link

I attended the wonderful Friday evening liturgy in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to pray for the pederast priests and for their victims, celebrated immaculately by Fr. Jim Tucker. This particular liturgy was part of a national day of reparation initiated by the American Cardinals at the request of the Pope, but Fr. Jim has been celebrating the traditional reparation to the Sacred Heart devotion at his parish for the past few months. I am itching to blog about why this is so good, but I have to postpone that for a little later.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/09/2002 12:10:00 PM | link

Still laughing uncontrollably from one of Zorak's discoveries: a website devoted to bad Japanese Engrish: www.engrish.com.

Go here for more good stuff like this:



Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/04/2002 08:59:00 AM | link

My wife has the "ask me face." Whenever we are out walking around Washington, whoever is lost within a 20 foot radius will find my wife out of a crowd of people and ask her for directions. She says it is an inherited trait.

I get the kooks. Last weekend when we go into 7-11 late at night to grab a quick sandwich and some soda, the man ahead of us in line turns around and notices our T-shirts. Now, normally, dear reader, I avoid wearing a T-shirt out in public, opting for the button-down Oxford as the minimal level of dress required for polite company. But this was the 7-11, mind you, so I figured I could dress down. That was my first mistake. So the guy says, "Oh, a Yalie and a Dukie Blue Devil." My wife immediately vanishes to find the soda, leaving me to walk that lonely road of kookdom I've walked so often before. The man clearly wants to talk about my education. Inevitably he asks what I study, so I tell him, "theology." If you know kooks, then you already understand that "theology" is the secret code word for "please tell me all your whacked-in-the-head theories about life."

So off he goes: First he tells me about how the Jews have taken over Western culture. Sizing up the beard, the round glasses, and the Austrian face, he reconsiders and adds, "but that's not necessarily a bad thing." (People mistake me for a Jew all the time, but more on that below.) Then he recounts his path to Gnostic illumination: First he went to some plain-vanilla Prot divinity school where he "learned too much for his own good," and realized that world power has proceeded out from the hands of the Jews, to the Catholics, from them to the Anglicans, and from the Anglicans to the Masons, which of course he's joined, and now knows "that's where the real information is at." Forging on to the Masonic arrangement of Washington architecture, the Bible Code, the Matrix People, etc. etc. etc. I figure I'm up for another twenty minutes of torturous conversation, since I'm too nice to be rude to this man. You see, every kook sincerely believes that their Gnostic discovery must be the most exciting intellectual synthesis of the century, and that I must be bursting to hear about it. The funny thing is, when this happens to you often enough, you realize all the kooks sound pretty much the same.

So I'm hunkering down for the long haul while I wait for my ham-and-cheese. Then the guy stops dead. Zorak, my mantis-friend, has returned to my side. She must have been burning the Look of Death right into this guy's skull, for he simply steps aside and says, "I think your lady friend wants to go now." She has no tolerance for kooks, you see. It's an acquired skill.

So this morning I am walking back from the Cathedral to my apartment in Dupont Circle. It is a bright, sunny day, and I've just been to see the Lord, so I'm in a good mood. So good in fact, I was even nodding my hellos to the fellow denizens of Washington I chanced to meet. A few feet from my building, along comes a charming older woman, perhaps mid-fifties, with permed hair, casual outfit, jewelry, make-up, and walking sneakers. I nod hello, and the woman's eyes look up at me.

"God Damn F---ing Jews!"

I did a doubletake. Sure enough, in my optimistic mood, I had let down my kook-dar. She was having a bona fide fit, right there on the side walk . . . about little old me.
"So many god damn Jews! We need to start getting rid of THEM! They got us into this god damn war ... %^&!@"

I found this rather amusing. Having just returned from church, I wasn't about to mess with her head; and if I tried to talk with her, I got the feeling she would have probably maced me. So I returned a polite "But I'm not Jewish!" This sends her over the top. I guess that makes me a crypto-Jew. I've never seen an old woman so violently agitated, shouting racial epithets, except on old video tapes of the forced integration of the Alabama school system.

So there you have it, folks. Another installment of the kook files. This never happens to me in the suburbs...

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/03/2002 12:27:00 PM | link

My belated entry to Mr. DeFeo's Thomas Aquinas Jingle contest:

Next best to Rome
Is the venerable tome
That sings like Orlando di Lasso.

If you've lost your way,
And you have all day,
Peruse some old San Tommaso.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 6/01/2002 06:31:00 AM | link


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