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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New Catholic blogger with his own dyn-dns, alterna-ported blog: Bremlar's Wondering philosopher. Because philosophy begins in wonder. (It ends in Aristotle.)

And something I should have blogged long ago:

The New Pantagruel. Go watch JPH fisk Turner for that nasty book on J.H. Card. Newman.

Saint Jerome
Saint Jerome is praying for you! To learn more
about this irascible saint go to the Patron
Saint Index at http://www.catholic-forum.com

Which Saint Would You Be?
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Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/29/2004 10:05:00 PM | link

Zorak, sardonically, on seeing the arrival of these books: "Oh great, your books on mind control have arrived."

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/29/2004 07:27:00 PM | link

A blogwatch at the party disrupts the whole scene /
I like my blogwatch with coffee and cream.

'Passion of Christ' moves man to confess killing 'suicide' victim. Via anglican.tk.

Rachel Jurado, a DC conservative and Platonist, at Banana Republican, has a blog motto that I fully endorse. Michael Oakeshott (skeptic-trad / anti-rationalist political philosopher) says: "I think the need to know the news every day is a nervous disorder." Here here!

Zorak didn't blog it (a "don't ask, don't tell" policy?), but she just obtained a membership in NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality because "they're the only ones who are doing anything about the problem." They have some compelling literature, and a big website, but I haven't read the latter yet.

The Ragemonkeys pick an awesome book for their debut Catholic Book Club, which is book discussion forum / study group online.

Tim at Hypotheses non fingo has an entry from last month I just noticed now: No "stupid" conservatives on Duke faculty. He also considers bizarre economics which would thwart NRO's suggestion to privatize the Hubble Space Telescope and notes someone who could use your prayers.

Edgar Allan Poe vs. Ernest Hemingway
Charles Bukowski vs. Dylan Thomas
Dean Martin vs. Humphrey Bogart

The greatest drinkers from all time return from the dead to battle it out in the The Clash of the Tightest. From MDM, of course.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/28/2004 08:23:00 PM | link

Came across Philokalia Republic today. Felt like writing a note since he was thinking about reading DeLubac and saw him on my blog. Since other people might also think about reading DeLubac, I'll throw in the vaguest stylistic criticism I sent to Mr. Jones since it may be useful to others:

Notes on Reading DeLubac
The 500+ pages of Augustinianism and Modern Theology and The Mystery of the Supernatural are the two-part expansion of his 1946 Surnaturel. So the two 1965 volumes contain his mature thought, which was summarized in the Small Catechism on Nature and Grace (1980), which I haven't read, but should.

DeLubac's work is poorly written, IMHO. He's a great heaper of information, but brings little formal structure to the material. Themes wander in and out of his consideration. He treats a large amount of technical terms without explanation. He carefully analyzes only tiny, critical parts of a few dozen thinkers, without any broader context on their work, and lots of "trust me -- this is this guy's perspective" thrown in.

Part of the problem is that Surnaturel is a composite, and the two 1965 expanded volumes are also composites, drawn from previous writings, study-group notes and Thomist journal articles he had written. When he fattens part of the 1946 argument at certain points because of criticisms aimed at the 1946 edition, he doesn't really tell you where and why, except in one place. So he really ought to have thoroughly revised the thing and hammered it out cleanly once anew before writing.

In Medieval Exegesis, the heaping-style argument works because it is his intention to show that _no one_ in his right might thought to disregard the spiritual senses before the 20th century. In _Augustinianism_ and _Mystery_, it is ungainly because he is trying to correct an historically-established misinterpretation of Thomas, as well as observe how the misinterpretation evolved in countering Baius and Jansen who themselves misinterpreted Augustine.

He would have been much better off to aim for a more systematic treatment, even at the expense of a larger book that subordinated historical material to a framework of his own providing. (For example, Lonergan writes much more clearly in Grace and Freedom and faces a similar task with respect to the history of the interpretation of operative grace.)

He also utterly fails to make basic distinctions that would clarify problems in inconsistent usage of terms throughout the tradition. For example, "nature" could either mean "birth endowment" (the concrete state of man, graced before the fall, fallen and graced after the fall) or "nature" in the sense of "Aristotelian essence." Seems a dozen Thomists have misunderstood each other simply because they presumed the other meant sense (a) when they meant (b) or vice versa. He could easily point this out, but never does.

Likewise, there are a zillion kinds of grace thrown around without explanation. This is probably because DeLubac was initially writing for grizzled veterans of the neo-scholastic tendency to micro-subdivide any category -- the kind who spill blood over minor points in Thomist journals. Now DeLubac's two books have become a primary text in themselves, and the audience is very different (i.e., students just learning about the history of the debate rather than journal authors already embroiled in it). He never once, for example, lays out the positive positions of Baius and Jansen on their own terms. He presumes you know it. Go to the Catholic Encyclopedia online for some good background.

Re: Louis Dupre:
Dupre's quote boils down the main thesis of DeLubac. I haven't read a lot of Dupre, although he did introduce one of the 1965 volumes. My guess is he may state DeLubac's thesis more clearly than DeLubac himself ever did.

Re: theosis:
2 Peter 1:4 should be your first Biblical text. If you haven't read the Finnish Lutheran School on justification as theosis, it is very interesting, but I don't think it is ultimately as compatible with Trent as they think.

Mr. Jones likes Pieper, so that's already a reason to check out his blog.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/25/2004 11:11:00 PM | link

Berulle, Opuscules de Piete:

"Let us bless God who has given us being, and being which has relationship and movement towards him. That movement is impressed by the Creator's power in the depths of the creature from the very moment of creation. And it is a movement so deep and so powerful that the will cannot affect it, except to fight against it, that no sin we commit can hold it back, that hell itself cannot obliterate it. That movement will last as long as the creature itself, and is inseparable from it. And the struggle that will take place in hell between the movement naturally imprinted upon the creature by the Creator, and the movement of the will whereby the creature flees from Him, will be one of the chief and everlasting torments of the damned."

Young Lonergan, still part poet, part scientist, in a lyrical moment:

"The existence of the philosophia perennis is not refuted but confirmed by the flux of the philosophies. For it is only too apparent that if philosophy's goal is the eternal, still philosophers are forever succumbing to the spirit of their age, becoming part of its limited culture, turning their thoughts to its crises and problems. This influence of the Platonic 'unreal' is the supreme obstacle to both philosophic achievement and to the conservation of what has been achieved; nor does the emergence of the perfect thinker suffice; the environment must also ring true, and the time must be propitious. It needed an Athens that could boast in the tone of the Funeral Oration, if Socrates was to discuss instead of simply teaching as did Gautama, if Plato was to perpetuate a vision of an ideal polity instead of crystallizing a code of manners as did Confucius. On the other hand, the shadow of infelicity hung too heavily over the Empire for thinkers to be balanced; they were too much of the world and Epicureans, or too much against it and Stoics or too eager to escape it and neo-Platonists. As for the febrile modern mind demanding perpetual change yet horrified by the monsters it begets, let Touchstone ask, "Shepherd, hast thou any philosophy?"
    -- Gratia Operans: A Study of the Speculative Development in the Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas (Doctoral dissertation, Gregorian, 1940).

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/25/2004 02:15:00 AM | link

I lay down the gauntlet
It's not a quiz, but you can use it as one: Modern Drunkard's article Forty Things.

I scored a perfect 50%: 20 out of 40. If you can surpass my score, I'll buy you a round.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/24/2004 07:49:00 PM | link

It can make you smirk; it will feed your mind
So read another blogwatch and you'll be feelin' fine

Kathy the Carmelite returns with two massive entries! First, she breaks the The DaVinci Code, but doesn't stop there and provides a powerful statement on sexuality, feminist religions and Christian marriage. So good, I read it three times. Consider it the flip side of those glowing, companionate-marriage treatises based on Eph 5. This is the complement, from the frank perspective of the dynamics of fallen man.

(Even the side-bar notes are luminous. From a guy who has done more reading on pagan sacrificial cults and "Pre-Yahwistic" Israelite religion than I'd like to admit, I am surprised I failed to notice this dead-on, ironic conclusion: "...goddess worship never cares for human fecundity--only that of crops. And nature-loving only goes as far as the sex act...)

Then, after that hearty entree, she gives two book recommendations which I will be sure to buy because several folks commented during the November headship debate that I could benefit from a rhetorical approach more amenable to women.
Viva la Minefield!

Cacciaguida observes this travesty. Do your part: it takes two seconds. Drop the brave medical student a note of prayerful support at the address given here. Want to do something more? Drop a lenten donation on this wonderful Ob-gyn center.

He also goes nuclear on to this Zenit article.

The Rat has been hiding in her hidey-hole lately, but I missed this. I guess it happens to the worst of us.

On the homefront, now I know why men are the hunters and women are the gatherers. While women aren't as strong, that's somewhat of a chicken-or-egg debate, and we all know what stealthy creatures they can be. This Lent, one of my penances is eating only salad for a major meal (usually lunch or dinner) usually after no snacking beforehand. I buy it pre-washed, pre-chopped, in those bags, and I permit myself to add onions, tomatoes, sprouts, even cheese and (except on Fridays) Bacos. Since I'm not fasting the whole day, I permit myself to eat until I'm full.

I eat the whole damn bag. Really, a man just can't get full on mere leaves. That's why we eat the cow directly, and let it waste the time muching all those leafy greens for us. My wife gets full on one big bowl. How? I can't understand it. It's like I'm eating air. At least I lose weight: despite eating the whole bag, its caloric value is still fairly trivial. (Those fast-food salads don't count. If you add fried chicken, fish, eggs, croutons, etc., the salad part has become accidental.)

Since my wife was raised in a male-free environment, she still marvels at the male appetite. I still chuckle at the afternoon my newlywed bride watched a hungry grad student friend and I put away salad, mac & cheese, hamburgers, beers and then dessert, each of which would have been a lunch for her.

The first hunting party certainly happened shortly after early man ate a bushel of grass and got so angry that he was still hungry that he ripped the leg off a passing herbivore.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/24/2004 06:35:00 PM | link

'Cause I got more spice than the blogwatch gourmet

Godspy article: Someone (sorry, lost it) has already remarked: If post-modern culture wasn't so utterly banal, he wouldn't feel so torn between radical extremism and materialist self-indulgence. It is curious how we have evacuated the space where previous generations found communal / political ambitions. Anyway, the quote, whose sentiment will not be far from the minds and memories of my rad-trad college friends:

"I must admit that somewhere in the depths of my postmodern liberalized heart I secretly envy McVeigh's tenacity, even as I am appalled by his actions. When I read the news of my former church's persecution, I felt a tremendous urge to abandon my sense of grace and nuance and, once again, fight the good fight of faith. The truth is, I miss the genuine dissent of fundamentalism; I've grown weary of purchasing clever t-shirts that mock society. I want to believe arrogantly. I want to be more narrow-minded. I want to see in black and white. But I can't. So I buy, while others bomb."

Flambeaux is slightly more optimistic about the future of liturgy than I am. In Virginny, we just fought us a fight with our very good bishop over basic postures for reception of the Eucharist. Sometimes, just getting orthodox priests and bishops to do what is required is amazing, depressingly hard. To his credit, however, our bishop is a die-hard prayer leader at the abortuary and very solid on a number of other issues. His bi-monthly prayer visits to the abortuary alone wins back my heart when liturgical quibbles offend it.

Flambeaux also adds a little smack about Canterbury.

I took the angel quiz and ended up a Seraph. Hurray.

The Jelly-Pinched Wolf writes Whatever Happened to Scaring the Bejeezus Out of People?. Here's my two cents: In the 1960s, when perversion emerged culturally in all its pristine newness, people understood it more purely. As prurience destroys our own self-awareness, we make less interesting horror because we've worn down the part of ourselves which reacts to the unnatural to the point where it is barely perceptive any more.

Eve, this one's for you: Andrea Nye on Male Recourse to Logic: "Desperate, lonely, cut off from the human community which in many cases has ceased to exist, under the sentence of violent death, wracked by desires for intimacy that they do not know how to fulfill, at the same time tormented by the presence of women, men turn to logic." Courtesy of a rare breed: a conservative analytic philosopher.

I'm not sure how Michelle can say something this irresponsible: "if one synagogue is burned because of this movie, then it should never have been made." I suppose we should go after the Beatles next? After all, their little song comparing depression to a seesaw inspired Charlie Manson to go on his killing spree. Please. An artwork cannot be judged by the single response of an idiot -- indeed, in this case, a purely hypothetical idiot. If you really think TPOTC will unleash Die Zweite Kristallnacht, you're on another planet.

Zorak recently noted a court case where a mother of a young girl is suing to make it illegal to watch porn films in your SUV, because she was stuck at a light when her seven year old daughter looked over and saw hardcore porn on a large in-SUV TV. Aside from the intrinsic merits of the case, Zorak's remark concerned people's growing loss of any sense of propriety about sex and public conduct. I submit a well-known model train manufacturer's catalog page (Warning: naked figurines) as further evidence. If you are putting this stuff in your model train setup, porn has completely warped your brain! What's next, pornographic pin-ups on tykes' kites you make with dad?

Last, but not least, I get a Google hit (and high ranking!) for old human drink with his hand. OK. Here's one: Take an animal hide, add oats and water, after both have been exposed to the air for a while. Ferment. Swizzle with main de glorie. Viola. Not only are you somewhere between stuffed, poisoned and drunk, you can now steal anything you want. Trouble is getting that elusive garnish.

Eve's lost her mind, in a good way: I'm too meta for my books!

Predictable. I eat all the foods and use the lingo, but I don't share the bloodline, despite being mistaken for a M.O.T. (=Member of the Tribe) all the time:
incredibly jewish
You're incredibly Jewish!

How Jewish are You?
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Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/23/2004 03:16:00 PM | link

The Passion of the Christ Post

This is a virtually unconditioned report. I have not had time to read the zillions of posts and newspaper articles already out there, nor do I plan to. What I say may have been said already. I don't know. Take it as a litmus test of my creativity, and inform me of the results. I offer five different reflections: One on style, one on women in the film, a grab bag of observations about various nuances of the film, a question about Christ's right eye, and a statement on the question of how Jews are portrayed.

A Moving Icon
Someone said: if you don't understand Marian piety after seeing this film, you never will. I add another ultimatum: If you don't understand the Catholic emphasis on visual art in worship after seeing this film, you may never understand it.

Let's begin with the first oddity to be debated before the movie's release: Gibson's choice of language. Language is successfully banished to a tertiary role in the movie, and the subordination of the spoken and written word to the visual image really works. Encouraged by Gibson's decision to use the original languages, the subordination is no accident, however, or mere byproduct of archaism. The exclusively Aramaic and Latin script would have been a debacle if the film's visual images and relentless pace did not engage the viewer so viscerally.

Language is tertiary. What is primary? Iconic scenes: paused, or nearly so (in slow-motion). They dominate the film. A secondary level of thematic unity is the flow of the plot between iconic scenes. Dialogue is thus tertiary, and only some of it is translated and subtitled, and even here, all of that is not strictly necessary. Having seen the film, and the pristine simplicity of its cinematographic crafting, I can completely understand Gibson's long-pondered dilemma about whether to include subtitles at all. At first, this seemed like sheer madness for an American audience. But having the seen the film, I can understand why Gibson considered it.

I think the film is better with the subtitles, however, because certain definite lines reinforce the plot and it is nice to know unambiguously when these lines are being spoken by the characters. Moreover, one couldn't have interspersed the flashbacks to the largely narrative Sermon on the Mount without the subtitles.

But the main point: Language is tertiary. The ascendancy of the word in modern culture, and indeed in modern worship, is humbled before the symbolic density and profound affectivity that can only be summoned an image.

Whole scenes in the film hinge on people looking upon the mystery of Christ in silence. The audience itself is drawn into this context by the silent presentation of the studio logo ("Icon Productions") at the beginning of the film; and at the end, the stunned audience becomes like so many of the depicted converts

But more importantly: All throughout the movie itself, conversion scenes are dominated by people looking at Jesus speechless, and usually on their knees. From Malchus to Longinus to the audience: "They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced" (Zech 12:10) / "Many shall be astonished...Kings shall shut their mouths because of Him" (Is 52:14-15).

Our Lady's long scenes with Christ are driven by her visual meditation on His life, and triggered by figurative similarities between an earlier event and an event during the Passion. Our own engagement is kept rapt by our visual experience of His evident suffering and hers. One must be quiet: "Let all mortal flesh keep silence." The silence of the movie manages to achieve, in film, what an amazing Christian hymn achieves once a year on Good Friday. I'm talking about The Reproaches, which leave a stunned congregation penitent, on its knees, looking at the Cross and hearing Our Savior's unanswerable question: "Aut in quod contristavi me? Responde me."

"Answer me." When the soul converts, dialectical argument stops. It has reached its end. The anagogy of grace then occurs in silence. Gibson captures this again, and again, and again.

Compare the tender silence of piety used throughout the film with the repeated, violent shouts of "Silence!" by Caiaphas. Worth meditating upon, IMHO.

What would be left of the movie if the bloody corpus was removed? (I am tempted to add: in the same way Protestants form a cross by removing the corpus from a crucifix?) The answer: Nothing whatsoever. The cinematography is symbolic, iconic, liturgical. That's why it works.

The Women: Iesum...Ostende
Eve, my wife, and other intelligent conservative women I know often lament the roles typically doled out to women in modern cinema. In TPOTC, women carry the film. Indeed, their acting skills may be more crucial to its success than Caviezel's. They convey the impetus to piety to the audience, and do so extremely well. When the audience wants to identify with someone in an emotionally-driven attempt to do something in response to Christ's Passion, a woman is offered again and again as the model of piety. Talk about a pro-female movie! Just count the number of brutal, distracted, self-interested, jealous, cowardly men, compared to how women are portrayed. Yes, St. John is offered as a figure of male piety, but he barely has two moments in the film as Mary's constant companion. Simon the Cyrene has a great role, and emerges as a wonderful conversion story, but the hesitant Simon is surrounded by much less reticent, much more intuitive, truly devoted women.

Our Lady's role was spectacular. She was in no way supernaturalized beyond recognition, although the intimacy of her heart with Our Lord's heart was clear. This is the irreducible core of Marian piety: Nothing separates her from her Son -- not the slightest alienation of sin -- and thus we beg her to show us how to become perfectly united to Christ's heart, as she is. If you want to perfect the imitatio Christi, learn the rule ad Iesum per Mariam.

Monica Bellucci was a great casting decision for the repentant prostitute Mary Magdalene. Let's hope art carries over into life. The identification of Mary Magdalene as the woman caught in adultery was an innovation, but it worked.

Just as women constitute the icon of piety in the film, so too the antitype is portrayed by the bald woman as Satan. The men are more conflicted figures, filling in the ranges of faith in between.

Because Mary teaches us primarily how to respond with our emotions and will, St. John tends to be the one who "treasures all these things in his heart." I think it was subtle, but you can just see St. John thinking about it all, and getting ready to write his gospel some day. Yet Mary's faith clearly includes mental assent to the mysteries of salvation. When Christ is seized, she knows: "It has begun." When Christ is scourged she asks Him in apostrophe, "How will you deliver yourself from this, Lord?" She believes Him when He says, "See, mother, I make all things new."

I was worried about the pieta at the end: so easy to overdo in light of the vast familiarity of the image. But it was as gentle as the passion and death scenes were graphic. Her right hand, dropped, open to the viewer, and her gaze, focused somewhere behind the viewer, balance her role as Mediatrix with her title of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Various minor observations about nuances
Innovations were kept to a minimum, and I haven't done the research (or bought any books) to see whether they are based on Egreda or early apocryphal literature.

The blinding of Gestas! What an addition! I think this was the closest the film came to "leading" the audience with a blatant editorialization.

The earthquake not only indicates the Day of the Lord, but does minor architectural damage to the Temple and is given as the reason for the tearing of the veil covering the Holy of Holies (the apokalypsis, by the way, literally.) By choosing a slightly stronger symbolic negation of the Temple and the old order it represents, Gibson does not need to incorporate somehow by reference the fact that it was destroyed 40 years later.

The First Raindrop: Brilliant cinematographic device for representing the comprehensive vision of the Father and His acceptance of the Sacrifice. As the raindrop falls, through it, we see briefly a fisheye view of the entire world, sub specie aeternitas, and then when it hits the ground, the sign. Also recalls Is 54:9 and Is 55:10-11. Beautiful. Did you notice how the earth is parched all throughout? (Mary clenches several parched fistfuls of earth during Our Lord's Crucifixion.)

There are a few perks for the listener who listens closely to the untranslated speech of the characters:

When Pilate questions Our Lord in private, Pilate presumes Jesus is a bumpkin from Nazareth, and first speaks to Him in Aramaic. Jesus responds in Latin, which raises Pilate's eyebrows slightly, and He continues His discourse with Pilate in the latter's native tongue.

If you listen to the Roman soldiers telling Christ "Get up!" as they surmount Golgatha, they are yelling, "Sursum!" which is just one of the many Eucharist-Passion connections. Who would have thought to combine the uncovering of the bread with the stripping of His garments?!

The only truly active gesture of Christ in the whole movie -- He suffers throughout the rest -- is crushing the head of the serpent. Brilliant device once again, since it identifies the one active act with all that follows.

The half-second scene of the devil shrieking in hell after Christ's Death was a bit overboard, IMHO, since extrinsic portrayals of supernatural realities were absent from almost the rest of the film -- the brief glimpse of the demon who possesses Judas being the other notable exception, and also unnecessary, IMHO. This is a very minor criticism.

The Right Eye
Perhaps it is my own personal quirk, but I pay attention to which eye a person uses to look at me. (I am cross-dominant -- right-handed, but left-eyed -- so that's probably why.)

Did anyone else notice the immediate contusion of Christ's right eye, which is absent from almost the entirety of the film? It is clearest in the four or five scenes where Christ moves a character merely by looking at him or her. The viewer is focused clearly on Christ's face, and it is always the left eye which makes eye contact, since the other is swollen shut. Why?

And after the Resurrection, what do we see? Christ from the right side, looking into his right eye, restored. Is there an intention to symbolize something here? After the Resurrection, do we see the preferred order, the world seen aright, etc?

The Jews
OK. I'll be perfectly frank: After hearing all the hype, and watching the film very carefully, I expected at least some controversial scenes. I can honestly say: I am completely dumbfounded that anyone can find this film to be anti-Semitic. Any rational observer, using objective, cool-headed aesthetic judgment, could not possibly come to that conclusion. Indeed, the movie takes steps to prevent it that are above and beyond the requirements of telling the Passion story.

If there is any conclusion a complete foreigner would come to about those involved in Jesus' judgment, it is this: Caiaphas, the individual, clearly has a burning hatred for Christ. In this, he is followed by a few (=3 or 4) loyal patsies from the Sanhedrin. No categorical "Semitic" association is made by the film.

The Basics: The period-style clothing should make it clear to all but the least educated who is Jewish and who is Roman. The streets of the via dolorosa are crowded with Jews lamenting the sentence imposed on Christ, and several who aid Him or come close and are prevented by Romans. Clearly this crowd is Jewish, as was the crowd who clamored for Christ's death at Caiaphas' instigation. There's no way a detached observer could conclude by looking at the responses of the common folk in the movie, that Jews in general favored Christ's death. I-M-P-O-S-S-I-B-L-E with any fidelity to the basic demographics of the film.

Ditto the Jewish leadership as a sub-group. Half the Sanhedrin storm out of the meeting where Christ is judged, condemning the whole proceeding as a farce, an injustice, a kangaroo court packed with incoherent witnesses. Then, as the movie goes on, and Jesus is scourged, we see Caiaphas losing more and more allies from within the fraction of priests and scribes who remain loyal to him. You can't miss them peeling away: they wear the most lavish garb in the whole movie.

It is the Romans who perform 95% of the acts of brutality. This is true to life: they were a sick, bloodthirsty people who make the average Kraut look kind. (I have a low opinion of Roman culture, which is another matter.) Others have maintained that because Pilate acted "as a patsy" for the Jews (clearly not the stance actually given in the movie), Jews are depicted as culpable for Christ's suffering. But here again, when the scourging is actually performed, what happens clearly exceeds Pilate's stated order by far, and the legate is furious when he sees the lashes Jesus has been given.

What comes through clearly is that some Roman footsoldiers love giving a Jew a good beating, and they hate the populace they are forced to police in Palestine.

Beyond Caiaphas' own intense personal hatred, I see N-O-T-H-I-N-G. To put it another way: A child can grasp the difference between "All apples" and "an apple." Caiaphas is certainly a Jew, not The Jews. If you can think past this basic difference of "one Jew does not equal all Jews" then you clear the only temptation towards anti-Semitism in the movie, and all but a drooling idiot can do that.

TPOTC in fact goes out of its way to mitigate any lingering possibility of anti-Semitism, or indeed, even anti-Romanism. It inserts several small speeches of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount as flashbacks, in addition to the standard narrative of the Passion which includes several "Father, forgive them" scenes. One flashback has Christ explicitly telling the audience: "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you" at the very moment Christ is being persecuted in the film. A few moments later: "I am the Good Shepherd...I lay down my life [i.e. voluntarily], and I take it up again."

I understand that Jews can easily become concerned about resurgences of anti-Semitism. WWII is living memory for many of them. At the same time, jumping all over a Christian film does nothing at all. Even if certain Christian denominations have historically harbored anti-Semitic sentiments (Southern Baptist fundamentalists, etc.), that should not be the presumptive context of any film about the death of Christ.

Some last words about the bloodiness of the movie.

Yes, it is graphic. Not as graphic as Aliens or a slasher flick, but at least as graphic as an Arnold Schwartzenegger film.

Yes, it is bloody. Last I checked, rebuilding the Temple is at the top of any good Jew's To Do list. What goes on there? Blood sacrifice the likes of which would make TPOTC look like an episode of Barney the Big Purple Dinosaur. The entire holy place had special plumbing to accommodate the rivers of blood that flowed over the altar, which drained into the Kidron. On high holy days, the Kidron ran red with blood there were so many animals slaughtered. Giant censors of incense could barely suffice to cover the stench of burnt hair, skin and animal flesh rising from those open-air ovens where the original holocausts took place. The Christian adoration of the flesh-and-blood martyrdom of Jesus Christ exists only because of the Jewish tradition of blood sacrifice.

The further the mind flees from paschal mystery and the mystery of human suffering more generally, the further it flees from the barest possibility for real religion. Judaism's distinctive contribution to the history of world religions is its high theology of human suffering, and Christ can only be understood within the Jewish context of Messianic fulfillment of the prophecies about the suffering servant, which is also couched in terms of the Messiah as sacrificial offering.

It is very human, and very tempting (and thus a favorite tool of the devil) to respond to experiences of horrific violence, to brutal dehumanization -- such as happened in the WWII holocaust -- by seeking to remove all that is violent, all that involves death, all that reminds us of our human passivity, from our religion. It is tempting to turn to an enlightened religion of pure hope and rationalized ethical principles of mutual upbuilding. We would like to be comforted by bracketing the reality of horror, but this is self-deception. It is not salvation from the horrible reality. Salvation is kenosis: the penetration of the divine into the lowest points of human existence; the resurgence (=re-surgo --> re-surrexit) of grace where nature is most beaten down, a mystical union with the divine at the very place where the human soul is most brutalized, dehumanized and threatened with disintegration.

If you understand Christ more as archetype, and less as propitiation, then you understand this. In the West, we sometimes focus too much on the propitiation-theology, and forget that "As I have done, so you must also do." When I see the Risen Christ at the end of the movie, I don't see a man whom Jews futilely tried to kill. I see a Jew risen from the dead. I see the only lens through which Auschwitz can become a place where the Nazi is as powerless over Jewish life as Caiaphas was over Christ.

Saint James! Holy Mary! Pray for us and for the Jews, that Christ no longer be a scandal between us.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/22/2004 06:45:00 PM | link

I finally saw The Passion of the Christ today. I was truly moved. The theater stereotypes are still true more than two weeks after its release: stunned audience, people crying, hushed silence leaving, even after these folks came knowing full well what to expect. Even the two tough urban black girls who sat behind me -- the ones who responded to The Alamo preview by saying loudly, "Yeah, and they got their asses kicked!" did not cease from crying during the last third of the movie. They cried, quiet literally, for what must have been 40 minutes straight, punctuating a sniffle every once in a while with a hushed, "Yes," "MmmHmmm," black Baptist style, as if in response to a moving sermon.

Yours truly had no intention of crying in public, especially with his father sitting right next to him in the theater. But at the scene where Jesus meets his mother and says, "See, mother, how I make all things new." I just about lost it, and I had to sit with my teeth clenched for the rest of the film, watery-eyed. Don't buy popcorn: it's an utter waste. I couldn't eat hardly any of it after the trial. I don't think I moved an inch. More later, when I have time.

One last take away: If the rest of my day is any indication, one viewing of the film has psychological staying power. I had to do a dozen things today on my visit back home: shopping, eating out, visiting friends in several places across CT. I can't blog now because in 5 minutes, I'm off to another place with mom. Yet in the midst of this sea of distraction, I find myself inexplicably quiet over my chicken wings in the restaurant, absent-of-mind in the grocery store, unusually gentle to people who bump into me at mall. The vast percentage of my brain is still sitting there, in the theater, watching, in awe, soaking it all in. It has become a welcome desert in my heart.

More later.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/20/2004 07:07:00 PM | link

I am certain Zorak will be delighted about NASA's decision to let Hubble crash to the ground prematurely for the sake of astronaut safety.

If they are going to take few gazillion dollars from taxpayers for this project, I damn well expect them to continue to risk life and limb to save it. Apparently several veteran astronauts feel the same way.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/19/2004 01:39:00 AM | link

Visiting my folks, I sympathize with Mel's relationship to his father, Hutton. My wife knows it is no mystery why it took me such a long time to learn how to refrain from making the intentionally inflammatory political remark. My dad on the furore over The Passion of the Christ:

"All these atheist Jews in Hollywood line up to tell us Christians not to bring our children to watch The Passion when they make millions running TV channels filled with blacks rubbing themselves all day long and screwing, and that's supposed to be OK for kids to watch."

While this remark was made in private, only my mother's foot prevents it from being made in public. A moment later, on the Jewish groups' anger about how the movie depicts them as the agents of Christ's death: "What do they think happened? He died in His sleep?!"

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/18/2004 03:00:00 PM | link

Jim Tracificant still a bad boy, even behind bars.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/18/2004 02:55:00 PM | link

The Completion of Original Sin
"When the idea of 'rational sufficiency' first reared its head clearly in a Christian society, about the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Christian soul felt an immediate shock of horror, as faced with the concupiscence of the mind which was the completion of original sin." -- Henri Card. DeLubac, Mystery of the Supernatural, 48 (borrowing from M. D. Chenu).

"The completion of original sin." You would be hard pressed to find a stronger condemnation of humanism and the Enlightenment, or anything short of the fall of Lucifer for that matter. I would like to write more about that, but alas. As one priest-professor observed: there is a reason why anti-rationalist encyclicals are promulgated on December 8th (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception): She who by grace was freed from all bondage to sin will crush the head of the serpent who tempts men to think they are perfectable by human reason and will alone.

And to top it off, DeLubac wasn't talking about the 17th century movements. He was talking about the slight theological aberrations which encouraged the subsequent 15th century heresy of Louvain theologian Michel du Bay (a/k/a Baius) who basically claimed that unfallen man could reach beatitude without the assistance of grace.

The whole book is a study of how late Medieval theologians are in part responsible for the genesis of philosophies which made atheism plausible for the first time in history. Well, that's actually a "byproduct" of the study, which is about a more technical issue in the nature / grace debate and the havoc it caused when handled incorrectly.

It's the kind of book that makes you want to run screaming from the practice of theology, lest you screw something up and generate a monstrous ideology. DeLubac shows how many brilliant men with good intentions ended up having a hand, most unwittingly, in some devasting intellectual movements.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/16/2004 12:45:00 AM | link

Funny parody at a blog named after Clement of Alexandria's work.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/15/2004 10:39:00 PM | link

Eucharistic Minister as Adulterer
That analogy alone was enough to make me pause and skim The Emasculation of the Priesthood at Latin Mass Magazine. (Via Zorak.) I have a few reservations about the article already, but it's worth noting. Now back to my job. Ok. Not yet. Three thumbnail reservations:

1) The primary metaphor the author uses is Priest:God::Husband:Wife, which is clearly the reverse of the traditional understanding where the human soul is the bride of Christ. The application of the originally corporate spousal metaphor (Christ as Groom & Church as Bride) to individuals is a high Medieval development (Bernard of Clairvaux) first applied to nuns as brides of Christ, I thought, so it's already an extension of a Biblical metaphor beyond its initial context. But the author's point still works insofar as it turns on the spousal metaphor and the exclusivity of monogamy. Discussing the male soul as the bride of Christ has always been a somewhat awkward metaphor, regardless.

2) At one point it seemed as if the author jeopardized his whole point in defending Western celibacy by saying that in the East -- where they have married clergy and are uninfluenced by post-conciliar nuttiness about minor orders, the role of the priest, etc. -- they seem to understand the exclusive relationship between priest and sacrament better. Yet, before one says that celibacy is therefore inferior to married priesthood, the opposite could be true: celibacy is more sublime because it does not need to enact the root metaphor (i.e. getting married) in real life in order to understand the spiritual application to the priesthood.

3) In general: I think the recovery of a theology of the male priesthood is an important task, but it should not be accomplished without reference to the munus triplex of Christ: priest, prophet and king. Why the father is priest-king of the local church, rather than the mother is an important cognate question. And male headship of the Church will never be clear until we recover an authentic theology of male headship in the family, where the father was first priest-king (and still ought be in any decent theology of the domestic church).

Isn't that much clear? How can we hope to recover an understanding of a man's unique and unexchangable vocation to be called "Father" and to rule the church when we can't even do it in our own homes? When the earthly realities are disordered, the spiritual realities which they explain by metaphor will also be obscure. God's didactic intent in structuring the priesthood as a spiritual fatherhood must go hand-in-hand with a recovery of God's plan for carnal fatherhood. It is no accident that we've forgotten what both mean in the 20th century, although these things were both unquestioned in centuries past.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/15/2004 12:08:00 PM | link

Latest Experiment in Mixology: The Bitter Pill
I bite into a caffeine pill and chew it, because I am too lazy to get up to get a glass of water. "Hmm. Rather bitter," I think to myself. And then I think: "Very bitter," like Absinthe.

(For non-specialists: true absinthe uses wormwood in its fermentation process, which creates the intense bitterness, but also the mildly hallucinogenic chemical thujone, which makes the drink so famous, and banned, because frequent wormwood consumption isn't great for your liver.)

Most absinthe substitutes -- e.g., Pernod or Absente -- can approximate the herbal character of true absinthe with anisette (which also louches, a bonus) but they all lack bitterness. Having had the real thing about a year ago, it makes all the difference, and nothing compares to the rich, herbal bitterness of wormwood. If done well, the taste alone is enough to make it a great drink, historical reputation, hallucinations and liver degeneration aside.

So I think to myself: What if I crush and muddle this caffeine pill with Pernod? Could it more closely approximate the bitterness of the real deal, and add a shot of energy to boot? There's little to lose in this combination. In two seconds, shot, pestle, and Pernod are on the kitchen counter.

Preliminary results are decidedly mediocre. The bitterness is there, and definitely adds something in the right direction. But it is too early, I think, in the tasting sequence. Absinthe bitterness is very late -- more characteristic of a distilled product with oils -- whereas caffeine bitterness is about three-quarters through: immediately on contact with the back of the tongue, rather than on the swallow, which is more characteristic of a water-soluble powder. At the same time, my last sip, which had more precipitated residue from the poorly-mixed crushed pill, was more promising. So perhaps I need to get the proportions right. Or perhaps I need to boil up the pill so that it dissolves better. (Hmm. A caffeine "syrup" preparation: already useful more broadly, I'm sure.)

Since it is 11am and I have work to do, further investigations are pending. The results of independent research and assessment are certainly welcome by e-mail.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/15/2004 11:48:00 AM | link

Ok. Fluff clearance house time:

You're Confessions by St. Augustine

You're a sinner, you're a saint, you do not feel ashamed. Well, you might feel a little ashamed of your past, but it did such a good job of teaching you what not to do. Now you've become a devout Christian and have spent more time ruminating on the world to come rather than worldly pleasures. Your realizations and ability to change will bring reverence upon you despite your hedonistic transgressions. Florida will honor you most in the end.

Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

You're Iceland!
Most people think you're a cold and forbidding person, but you're actually naturally warm and inviting.  People just get scared off by what other people have led them to believe about you.  You keep to yourself for the most part, and are pretty good at fending for yourself, especially if water's involved.  More people should visit you and find out the truth.

Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

From the referrer log:

This happened to me all the time when I taught philosophy in community college; but the students weren't joking, fancied themselves profound, and missed the point that I had spent a half-hour explaining why they couldn't answer this way.

In the spirit of that flash media "Exorcist in 30 seconds re-enacted with bunnies," I give you: Waiting for Godot, re-enacted with three Norwegians, and beer.

This sick bastard is going to hell. I'll say it again: With sodomy fast overwhelming the floodgates of the social order, you'll see a lot worse than this in less than five years. Already the #2 website struggles to get a philosophy in place.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/14/2004 02:50:00 PM | link

Metro follies / Taking the name of Mel in vain

Usually I find the DC metro a somewhat depressing place. Not architecturally or in its environment: both of those are grand compared to any other city's subway. But I generally abhor public transportation, and when I do ride, it is usually during the business day, when I know I'll get caught in commuter traffic trying to make it into town. During those times, the metro is packed with rushed, boorish, smelly people generally cramming themselves anywhere they can stand. And on the train, people look like they have just been told their best friend got cancer. Their work-exhausted faces adopt a bleaker version of the "don't talk in the elevator" stare, and some just slump over against the window or wall and pass out for the long ride. No one exchanges a courtesy or a smile, despite our proximity to the South.

But last night was different. Around 11:30pm, the Mc-A. duo gave me a call. They are twin sisters from Tennessee who just turned 21 and wanted to go drinking out on the town during their brief stay. Before you think my life is more interesting than it is: they are only friends, and I am married. Nevertheless, the looks from the other gentlemen in the 18th Street Lounge were amusing as they tried to figure out why I had the company of two women, and they had none. The bartender was also doing shots with the clientele (usually streng verboten in any bar), and ended up way underbilling my friends.

In any case, I got on the metro because I knew that I will be having a few drinks and I needed to get back without DUI. Then I discovered something many of you may have probably known for a while. On the late weekends, metro is the drunk conduit into and out of DC. Totally different than the daytime. The transformation was almost as drastic as that venerable SNL skit where Eddie Murphy disguises himself as a white man for a day, and when the last black gets off the subway, they turn on nice music and serve hors d'oeuvres and champagne. Everyone was quite happy, and a good percentage were quite drunk.

On the way in, a boatload of people boarded at the Marymount stop. Some good ole boys kept whooping back and forth to each other at the top of their lungs, an adolescent male equivalent to the way crickets find each other. When others found this behavior a bit loud, the boys would respond with passive-aggressive witty repartee like: "You know, Clay, there are too many damnyankees on this train." (And yes, "damnyankee" is one word in Suth'rin.) One exchange was fun:

The one: "Jesus Christ! Would you..."

The other, interrupting: "Don't say 'Jesus Christ.' Say Mel Gibson."

The one: "Mel Gibson! would you look at that..."

Another young lady, clearly on the make, was cross-examining an overwhelmed young man about whether he would turn into a charming or nasty drunk later that night. I guess there were only two options for this fellow that evening. Another couple delighted in finding a dropped pack of Parliament Lights. You have to be drunk to smoke found cigarettes. And really drunk to like Parliament Lights.

On the way back, a third woman, half-clad to begin with (a la mode: belly out, micro skirt, skintight top), discovered that in an empty metro, the metal poles you grab to stabilize yourself resemble in form and function the striptease's pole in a bar. To the credit of the local populace, I was warned upon boarding that the drunk young lady "had already given us quite a show," so that I wouldn't be as shocked as they were if she did it again.

So for all those who countenance driving home down I-66 a little tipsy, shame on you. Metro has made avoiding DUI in your weekend commute fun and safe, without any extra cost for the entertainment. And you thought you needed crabbed old sawhorses like M.A.D.D. to clean up the streets on a Saturday night.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/14/2004 01:10:00 PM | link

When it's cold outside and you want to sleep in
go for a blogwatch that's so nice and thin.

Big cicadas this year. If you don't know what a cicada is, watch the Simson's "screamapillar" episode to get a hyperbolic version. The title of the AP article is stupid: They don't "take aim;" they are stupid creatures that emerge from where they live in the ground, mate, and lie around everywhere until they die.

Latest spammer name: Desensitization E. Trampling. I'm glad the Trampling family moved beyond using such banal names.

Why this is considered breaking news I don't know. Yahoo found it fit to place it between Madrid Bombings and S. Korea's ousted president.

This is a funny twist on Nietzsche, and actually a lot more true of Nietzsche than the original!!

In contrast to Enlightenment-driven slogans that normally dominate marketing ("Revolutionary!" "Freedom!" "Express yourself!"), this morning's package of Aunt Jemima waffle mix greets me with an antidote: Picture of kid eating a stack of pancakes, captioned "Some traditions just get stronger."

Planned Parenthood hires its first chaplain. Via Cacchiaguida. What denomination made its deal with the devil? That would be the United Methodist Church.

Kathy the Carmelite returns to blogging.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/12/2004 12:17:00 PM | link

Godinger Creates a Masterpiece of Barware.

The Problem: You have been drinking martinis for five or six hours straight. Yet you still must maintain the role of gracious host, and carry more snozzle juice out to your guests. Balancing the intrinsically top-heavy glasses on top of a flat tray, you try to walk back into the living room. With baited breath, you watch the sloshing, clinking disaster about ready to happen, and tip-toe over whatever (or whomever) happens to be on the floor.

The Cause: Top-heavy stemware is contrary to drunkenness. The problem is compounded when you balance the stemware on a tray, which supports the stemware from the worst possible place, the bottom. Add some rolling olives, or a toothpick bin to topple over, and you've got a real mess. Oh yeah, and you can't balance well because you're drunk.

The Solution: The Godinger Martini Set, the best martini caddy I've ever seen. Easily graspable, basket-style handle. Four glasses slip into rings and are stable, lifted by their center of gravity. Fill up that shaker, bring it with you, and save a trip. For a classy bonus, four very solid little olive picks with fork tips travel in a little quiver which also drops into the caddy. Swing a little, and the gravity of the set accomodates your tiltiness, provided you did not fill the glasses to an obsessive-compulsive level of plenitude.

Contrary to appearances in the picture, the stems of the glasses do not touch the ground when you set the basket down. They remain suspended.

The Challenge: I am a firm believer in requiring guests to overcome some small challenge to prove they are capable of ingesting another drink without keeling over. The puzzle with the Godinger martini caddy comes in the contorted motion you must use to remove the filled glass from the caddy, since the gap in each ring faces the corner where the horizontal part joins the circular frame. I do not know why they didn't locate the gaps facing the middle of the caddy, the natural position. Perhaps they are more likely to slip out if you really swing the thing. But in any case, it's nothing a silversmith can't fix cheaply if you really don't like it, which I don't.

Conclusion: This is superior barware: an attractive, well-thought-out solution to a common problem. You betcha I bought one. If they make a Mark 2, they should fix the location of the gaps on the rings. If you like to serve martinis, you should buy one too.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/10/2004 09:39:00 PM | link

You might think that the Church of England's capacity for radical innovation was totally spent on destroying marriage and holy orders, but they still had time for this. Somewhere, in a church basement, there's a Catholic liberal liturgist with a DSL connection getting an idea. Like the Bird Flu chickens, such people need to be "culled" (canonically, of course) before the virus spreads.

Thankfully, we've had Vatican instruction in place for years now against "virtual confession" and other attempts at tele-administration of the sacraments.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/10/2004 10:22:00 AM | link

New light in the blogosphere: Flambeaux debuts with a name explanation, link to Moloch now (a twist on Screwtape) and a link to his wife, the Stitch Witch, who shares with her husband the addictive drug known as Blogger.

Long-time readers may know that I am a fan of etymologies, and the Stitch Witch's emoticon says she is feeling "copasetic" today, so I feel moved to shed light on the etymologies of two English words which we can call "Sammy Davis, Jr. words" for ease of reference. Both were created when American blacks borrowed from Jewish culture.

Copasetic comes from NYC, where blacks frequently overheard Jews exchanging their version of "OK": ha kol b' seder which means "everything is in order." Linguistic corruption was inevitable across the language divide, and copasetic was born.

Ditto ghetto, which comes from the Yiddish shtetl, which comes from a German diminutive of Stadt, i.e. "little city," or in this case, an ethnic sub-section of the city. Mahvellous!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/09/2004 09:18:00 AM | link

Fr. Tharp of the Ragemonkey writes a thoughtful message about Winandy, from which I grab only a tiny bit:

... I have to admit, I liked stabbing my opponents with the Sacred Scripture. I guess I will have to stop, or at least cut back.

I don't think there's anything wrong with frequently using apologetical material from the Scriptures, but when it becomes the dominant mode of exegesis intra muram, i.e., when Catholics who have little need of being forced (modo apologetico) to accept these truths are taught the Scripture filtered through this method, it limits the beauty of the text and range of connections IMHO.

Put it another way: When I teach according to the spiritual senses, it is not arbitrary, but it does strongly presume the light of faith as an explicit axiom of interpretation. Thus, the connections one sometimes sees would be flatly rejected by a Lutheran or a Jew. My wildest foray in this regard: Bread of the Presence as an anticipation of Perpetual Adoration.

Yet a lover has a more sensitive awareness of the beloved than an enemy, so there is still an analogy to intimacy and natural knowledge which one can use to explain the role of faith in exegesis.

. . .

Upon seeing another priest in the blogosphere, I was further compelled by a desire to avoid more reading to meditate:

Anyway, welcome to the blogosphere. I always enjoy it when priests have blogs. Especially since one often wonders "What do these guys really think about x...?"

It also has value in increasing cultural rapport between laity and priests, I think. Two dear priest friends, one diocesan, one Dominican, showed me early on the value of priests doing things "real people do" while in cassock. One joined me for dinner at a WASPy Yalies-only club during my undergrad days wearing his Dominican habit. It certainly turned heads, and required resolve on the part of the Dominican, who didn't like to be the center of attention, but made it plain that priests, too, like to join Yale students for long-standing undergrad traditions.

The diocesan priest likes to join his priest-friends for the opera, but they are too timid to wear the cassock. When they first told him, "We are going in tie," his response was: "I haven't worn a tie since the night before my deaconal ordination." When you see a priest at the opera in cassock -- as when you see a priest blogging -- it does a lot to remove the atmosphere of the foreign which priestly life can sometimes garner in the eyes of the laity.

Don't get me wrong: I love the eschatological sign aspect. That's precisely why the cassock part is important. But sometimes a needless level of presumed dissociation from laymen's activities sets in, and doing things like shopping at the store in cassock does much to dispel that.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/08/2004 05:39:00 PM | link

The other night with nothin' to do / We broke a case of proof 102
And started itching for that wonderful feel / of blogwatching in an automobile

A comment at Zorak's blog has unleased the need for casuistry concerning fasting, since it will be practical again in a few weeks.

Elinor writes: "Tea doesn't break the fast? Really? That's great! Good Friday will be no trouble at all, if that's the case."

No, as far as I know, tea doesn't violate the fast. Even a real concept of fasting, unlike the extremely attenuated demands the U.S. Bishops have in place for the fattest country on the planet. In fact, I thought in Ireland "The Black Fast" was the name for the Ash Wednesday / Good Friday fasts, based on the fact that they drank only black tea and ate only black bread. For the history of the Black Fast, Catholic Encyclopedia has something, as usual.

My casuistry? 1) Tea is not a food, unlike milk, which is a food not a drink. If you drink milk, that's your meal or snack for the day. 2) Tea is non-nutritive, so it's doubly safe. But as far as I know, you are permitted even some mildly nutritive liquids, like fruit juice, because some people react badly to no sugar all day.

I usually fast on tea, water and fruit juice if necessary, but since doing Atkins, I no longer freak out if I have no carbs, so I've scrapped fruit juice. I think the official fasting regulations are super-wimpy and I recommend one light meal if necessary tops, with nothing else all day. You can do it.

Dave writes: "Would it violate the spirit of Lent to pig out at midnight?"

I certainly do eat at midnight, because I have three more hours of work to do. But if you really fast -- i.e. eat NOTHING -- then you'll find that a modest meal makes you feel perfectly full because your stomach has shrunk.

On with the blogwatch!

Here's two scoops of weirdness. Scoop one: exorcist bunnies. My more pressing question is: Who makes this stuff? Second scoop: sacerdotal blog named Catholic Ragemonkey. And yes, I have an inner rage monkey. Ask Zorak. She's seen it. Every day.

Top it off with something normal: An image of heresy.

Zorak blogs that someone at Google has lost his mind. If a man cannot understand a woman's mood, how the heck is he going to genetically engineer an animal to do it? Let's face it, there's no creature on this earth which can rival -- let alone comprehend -- the affective complexity of women. Not even genetically-engineered animals powering Google. I'll believe Google's power when it can stop sending porn addicts here.

Heh! The Onion | New Nietzschean Diet Lets You Eat Whatever You Fear Most.

Blasphemy from PETA: Pig poster: He died for your sins. This is unsettlingly close to the way in which Satanists routinely mock Christ.

Very funny: Stages of learning of physics theory compared to girls you've dated.

How can I tell Yahoo I'm not interested in dating? And she is airbrushed to a stratospheric level of unreality:

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/08/2004 12:19:00 PM | link

The town of Killington votes to secede from the socialist paradise of Vermont and join the "Live Free or Die" state of New Hampshire over the issue of massively redistributivist taxation to fund public schools.

According to a new article I saw, which had different figures than the CNN article, Killington generates nearly $10M in tax revenue used for Vermont public schools, but receives less than $1M in return. The VT state legislature has already called the move invalid, but the town is petitioning the Vermont governor and New Hampshire as its next steps. New Hampshire has said that it will be happy to receive Killington. Killington, for those that don't know, is one of the most popular ski resort towns in VT.

Now if whole states could do this with respect to the enormous, bloated Federal budget for public education, think of what an advance that would be!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/07/2004 10:55:00 AM | link

Today I received my 60,000th hit. Hurray!

The visitor surfed here on Verizon's network at 8:45:51 pm. The reader seems to have come directly to the blog, rather than coming via a referral, so perhaps he was a "regular reader" coming to get his daily dose of Oligarch.

Hit 60,001 narrowly missed this distinction, and thankfully so, since it was yet another inbound, porn-frenzied googler looking for "painted b00bs," several of whom come here looking for that every week.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/06/2004 10:16:00 PM | link

World-historical analysis of why "spirituality" is such a benighted concept
I decided that I needed to cool the brain a bit from late Medieval natura pura disputes and their Neoscholastic continuations. How many subdivisions of grace can you conjure? Let's see, so far there's: operative grace, cooperative grace, sufficient grace, efficacious grace (both intrinsic and extrinsic!), sanctifying grace, remedial grace, elevating grace, and my personal favorite, "grace gratuitously given."

So I've been reading a little about Benedictine history, in particular:

Dom Jacques Winandy, Benedictine Spirituality

Winandy makes a fascinating comment about the devolution of Catholic theology after the 13th century: The hallmark of Patristic theology is its seamless integration of spiritual exegesis, doctrinal elaboration, and "devotional" fervor. To use Pickstock's phrase, doxology is the end of theology for the Fathers. In this regard, Winandy styles monastic theology (as opposed to scholasticism), the true "daughter of Patristic theology," because it retained this synthesis contrary to what happened in the bulk of the West, which can be seen as a three-way fracturing of this former unity:

1) Biblical exegesis becomes progressively separated from doctrinal exposition and devotional life.

2) Doctrinal exposition becomes increasingly "systematic" and arid.

3) Devotional exercises, separated from lectio divina and systematic theological reflection, becomes what we call "spirituality." It has no other trajectory in which to develop but that of a functionally generic religious psychology: A purely reflexive investigation of man's internal spiritual dynamics without much reference to creed or scripture. In particular, man is investigated primarily as a lone individual, with respect to his affective character, in the interests of recapturing some basic truths of practical reason.

It's subtle, but all of that is in his short, largely historical essay. And thus Winandy suggests that more monastic theology may be the cure for what ails us lately in the West when we try to cultivate "spirituality."

My comments:

Re #1: A related common complaint: After Trent, exegesis becomes increasingly technical (because of the newly-acquired acumen of Renaissance humanism), or driven solely by apologetics. Both motivations encourage the abandonment of the spiritual senses. The former (=technical excellence) does so simply because one becomes engrossed in the literal sense and never rises above it. The latter because spiritual exegesis isn't a dialectical tool you can pick up and use to stab at your opponent. DeLubac has some great remarks about this mid-way through vol. 1. of Medieval Exegesis.

Re #2: While Winandy uses neither "systematic " nor "arid" to stigmatize late Medieval theology, I think "aridity" is largely uncontenstable when one looks at some late Medieval systems.

And by "systematic" I do not mean merely the positive sense of an orderly exposition of revelation according to philosophical principles, but in the negative sense of becoming overburdened by a tedious, expansive conceptual machinery which tends to function practically as if the objects of faith were like objects of natural investigation: without mystery, and potentially exhaustable by well-mustered intellectual theorization. (See any of Caputo's rants in Heidegger and Aquinas.)

Re #3: I've always thought "spirituality" was a frighteningly vague term, especially given the fairly paramount importance of the term "spirit" in theology. I thought Winandy put his finger on why spirituality is such a vitiated, undeniably modern concept quite well.

Regarding the conclusions: Since many priests are educated in a method which is scholastic in inspiration (i.e., at those places where there still is a method post-VCII), the influence of "fragmented theology" may be harder to weed out than he anticipates. As with any attempt to return to a former unity, more damage could be done by ill-considered rejections of scholasticism tout court (as if this didn't happen enough already) than simply giving students a critique and a counter-example along with "standard" courses of theology.

And since we can't roll back the clock to the early Church, perhaps the way to begin is by re-integrating lectio with devotion through reading the interpretations of the Fathers and studying their use of the spiritual senses. Then, do your theology at a place which prides itself on implementing the Second Vatican Council's request for a more Biblical Catholic theology, and which also keeps up with Patristic ressourcement. Two steps in the right direction, if you ask me. I know only a few schools around here where they have just such an approach (one's in Western VA, the other's in Ohio), but they exist.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/06/2004 08:59:00 PM | link

The High Stakes of Wielding Papal Magisterium

Today is the 399th anniversary of an event which some deem a fanciful datum in the question of "How does God prevent the Pope from teaching error?"

Pope Clement VIII was vexed by the Molina-Banez debate, since it was causing endless feuding between the Dominicans and the Jesuits. First, he called the congregatio de auxiliis (a theological commission) to argue the case before a group of Cardinals in Rome in 1597. Six years passed, and the debates only waxed fiercer. Clement then decided to preside over the congregatio in person.

Three years later, on this day, Clement had grown tired of the interminable controversy. Resolving to settle the matter by a definitive teaching, he stayed up late into the night drafting a bull which many believe would have condemned several Molinist propositions. Before he could sign it, however, he dropped dead.

His successor, Leo IX, upon assuming the throne, believed that the severity of the debates had so taxed the previous pontiff's heart that he resolved to bring the controversy swiftly to a close as his first papal order of business. Leo, too, dropped dead shortly thereafter.

Leo's successor, Paul V -- perhaps discerning the hand of providence -- immediately put an end to the debate. He halted the publication of controversial literature on both sides, insisting that both sides tolerate each other's opinions as legitimate theological positions within Catholic orthodoxy. He subjected any dissent from these disciplinary matters to the Inquisition, and ruled that debate must cease until the Holy See decided that it would rule on the matter. In light of his two dead predecessors, Paul V never did. He left the matter open, which is the state of the question to the present day.

Two unfortunately-timed pontifical deaths within a few weeks of each other -- just chance? Perhaps. John Paul I's super-short reign is a modern example.

Or, does the Lord have His own way of preventing high-level debates from reaching an incorrect resolution?

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/04/2004 02:20:00 PM | link

In tribute to my first DIY oil filter change (because the bums at the garage forgot), I give you How Men and Women Change Oil. My change went smoothly, however, unlike the man described. But honestly, I do do a dozen other things as per the typical description.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/04/2004 01:18:00 PM | link

He just smiled and handed me a vegemite sandwich. For all those who wondered about this lyric, this exercise in empiricism is for you.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/03/2004 10:41:00 AM | link

Caught the end of the movie Fat Man and Little Boy, about the Manhattan Project, starring Paul Newman. (The title derives from the names of the two atomic bombs.) I have always had an interest in the history of the bomb, so I decided to watch it.

The movie's script was only mediocre, the women's parts would have made Eve implode (women as the emotional counterweight to the rationalist soldiers and scientists; women as holding forth the goodness of "mothering the children" rather than "fathering the bomb" yada yada. Give me 2 minutes of Linda Hamilton's little tirade in T2 and be done with it), and the movie's ultimate stance on the bomb rather undefined.

But I was intrigued by the Michael Merriman character, who dies using an appallingly makeshift apparatus to perform a critical-mass experiment. I hadn't heard about Merriman before, but it turns out the character is loosely based on Louis Slotin, one of two men who died while tickling the tail of the dragon. When the air in the room lights up like the inside of a neon tube, you know that's a bad sign.

I found this story about Arnold Kramish and Father Louis McDonough to be a heartwarming story of a Jewish survivor of an early nuclear experimental accident and a priest who ministered to the victims of the accident. I especially liked how McDonough chides the Jewish man for blasphemy after 40 years have passed but also "makes a deal" for the Jewish man to pray for the priest on his deathbed. The part about the Jewish mother pushing aside the armed guards and oxygen tent to feed her injured son chicken soup is a classic.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/03/2004 08:35:00 AM | link

Sitemeter reveals that I am a one-hit wonder for googly aneurysms.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 3/01/2004 04:53:00 PM | link


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