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

E-mail Me
oldoligarch @yahoo.com

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I Might Respond!

E-mail Policy
Any e-mail I receive is fair game for publication, with comments, unless you explicitly say so beforehand.

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The WeatherPixie
Weather at Dulles Airport

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De profundis clamavi ad te Domine. Domine exaudi vocem meam fiant aures tuae intendentes ad vocem deprecationis meae.

Depression, fatigue, reasons of physical health, and my vocational responsibilities all require that I take a brief hiatus from this forum. Pray for me that I can finish my degree and get a job.

Postings have been a bit grim here at the Stoa. Despite my oft-used tone, it was not part of my original intent to be so thoroughly negative. Until I can post something better than what I've been posting of late, it's better not to post anything at all. My leisure time has been nil for the past nine months since the little one came along, and it takes time to present something worthwhile In the mean time, enjoy the archives. Maybe I'll be busy for a week; maybe, for a month. It's hard to say.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 10/05/2005 01:07:00 AM | link

Hack those $20 CVS "red" disposable digital cameras into your own, reusable 1.1Mpixel camera that can upload pics directly to your computer. Plans are underway to hack the newly-announced disposable digital camera too.

This and tons of cool hacks and works of pure ingenuity at makezine.com

Posted by Old Oligarch on 9/29/2005 12:12:00 AM | link

Judgment Day for Private England
Now, personally, I think she should be flogged. But I guess they don't do that anymore. She is a double disgrace to our military: once by nature, twice by behavior.

Just file this one away the next time some ardent pro-Amazon tells you that women in the military don't change troop dynamics. These are the words of England's defense attorney. I kid you not:

"[Defense attorney Capt. Jonathan] Crisp countered that England was only trying to please her soldier boyfriend, then-Cpl. Charles Graner Jr., labeled the abuse ringleader by prosecutors. 'She was a follower, she was an individual who was smitten with Graner,' Crisp said. 'She just did whatever he wanted her to do.'"

Either he's trying to punish her on his own by such a lame defense, or else he thinks that excuse actually has some purchase on members of the jury. And if it does, we should think about letting the French command us.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 9/26/2005 10:55:00 PM | link

You are a

Social Conservative
(16% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(80% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Republican

You exhibit a very well-developed sense of Right and Wrong and believe in economic fairness. loc: (-125, 112)
modscore: (48, 10)
raw: (4613)

Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

Posted by Old Oligarch on 9/26/2005 10:49:00 PM | link

"O'zapft is!"

Oktoberfest is underway!

The inside of the Hacker-Pschorr tent. Check out the sky painting.

Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue,
Deutscher Wein bayerisches Bier und deutscher Sang...
Uns zu edler Tat begeistern
Unser ganzes Leben lang!

Now if I can only get Zorak to wear a dirndl around the house....

Why not crack open a bottle of Munich's finest and enjoy some authentic Oktoberfest music while you do it, courtesy of the Oligarch.

Can't understand the Bavarian? Check out Oktoberfest.de's Bavarian dictionary. They have a German version so you can muse on the relationship between Bavarian and German. It also shows just one more way Bavaria is the coolest part of Germany: resistence to formalization of language. Quoth the dictionary's intro page: "Since no official written form of Bavarian exists, the words are written in a phonetic form based on German pronunciation."

Posted by Old Oligarch on 9/18/2005 01:53:00 AM | link

One devoted reader sends me news of this Intelligent Design Flash Media game wherein you blow up pandas spouting anti-ID slogans.

Devoted to fusing fine Irish alcohol and ice cream once again, Double Shot Thoughts offer this new recipe.

And an article from Cnytr which could be titled: "Whoops, I killed a third of America by not following NIOSH guidelines":

Officials discovered two weeks ago a failure to account for three of 24 mice that had been injected with a bacterium that causes various forms of the plague, including bubonic plague, inside the high-security facility located in the middle of the city of Newark.

I note the sentence is just vague enough to suggest, but not actually commit to stating, that it was the bubonic plague itself that the mice have.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 9/16/2005 11:45:00 PM | link

Sparse blog. Ueber-busy. Prepare for two very depressing but necessary posts:

Pray for the souls who died.

When Bush tells you Islam is a religion of peace, remember it's bullshit.

But he's not lying; he really believes it, because the West has been bending revealed religion to the dictates of politically-expeditious rationalism for centuries now. And if there's any religion I'd like to see broken on the wrack of John Locke's philosophy, it's Islam. But let's break it the right way. It deserves no less.

Convert them to Christianity peacefully whenever possible,
but kill them when they militate against us.

Deus lo vult.

Susan Torres' baby dies suddenly.

Move over, Job. Jason Torres just earned the right to your spot. I personally don't think I could bear what he's going through. He surely needs a lot of prayers.

God desired that the entire struggle to save Baby Torres become an absolute statement in favor of the value of human life, and so He removed any possibility of conflating the value of the struggle with the goodness of the consequences everyone envisioned from the birth of the apparently healthy baby girl. Her loss is enormously sad. But we did not save her for baby smiles, tricycle rides, long nights in Daddy's loving arms, or her eventual emergence into adulthood. We helped save her because she was a human being and deserved to live. Baby Torres' death does not alter the force of that motivation; rather, it underlines the intrinsic worth of that motivation in a grave, irrevocable way.

Since, if I remember correctly, she was baptized in extremis following birth, we know something else too, as sad as it is to think about. Despite her early death, her ultimate fate is as good as it gets. And that will last a lot longer than Dad's sorrow. Let's pray for him that he may enjoy heaven with his wife and daughter and not be driven to anguish and despair.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 9/13/2005 12:17:00 AM | link

Ten year old arrested for attempting to give water to Schiavo "apologizes."

Most ten-year-old boys possess the ability to give a non-apology when forced to apologize. This one used it for something good.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 9/02/2005 03:54:00 AM | link

New Orleans descends into armed gangs, rape, anarchy.

Meanwhile Liberals feel the best response is to blame Bush. I mean, the bullshit is whirling like a maelstrom from those people. They even blame the Republican governor of Mississippi for not endorsing the Kyoto protocol as a cause of the problem!! Or they claim the evacuation efforts are failing because the people are black and Bush doesn't care if they die. I mean, it's just absurd. What's next? Planned Parenthood blaming pro-life Republicans because if they only permitted more abortions, fewer people would have been in New Orleans? Oh wait, Planned Parenthood has its own schtick in place already. It's days like this when I get depressed about living in a country chock full of people who can only scream for some bankrupting federal program and blame Republicans for natural disasters. These pantywaisted, assinine thumbsuckers can't think beyond demanding that some massive government agency, somewhere, create a "system" to handle the problem. It's simultaneously maximally shackling (via taxation) and maximally avoidant.

Bush, meanwhile, finds the whole sheebang an opportunity to spend an unprecedented amount of cash on a reconstruction effort, vowing to build the city again.

[O.O. smacks his head against the wall again and again...]

WTH? Let me set a few things straight:

The U.S. has already spent billions and billions of dollars -- Federal money more than local money -- on something that should have never been done in the first place, beginning with FDR: Turning a flood plain into a densely-populated urban zone. THAT is one cause of the problem. And now, for the first time in history since the Louisiana Purchase, we can get the hell out of there once and for all. Thankfully at least one commentator got on a news network long enough to blame FEMA and the Feds for creating the illusion the city is safe, and taking all fiscal responsibility for the risks of living in an unstable environment from New Orleans and distributing it on the backs of the American people, thereby removing all disincentive to live there.

I generally know squat about regional US history. Moreover, I don't have a mind for historical facts. But I've known since elementary geography that New Orleans is below sea level, and usually in the same breath something like this follows: "Only by good fortune and massive engineering projects is the city not completely under water." I've been hearing that, in Connecticut, since I was like 8. I find it hard to believe that people in Louisiana didn't know that too. Years ago, they had a whole History Channel special on the massive levee systems and periodic decades of confidence between disasters which always led to the same end: nature does what nature does, and each time, more and more people and buildings are underwater.

If you want to build your house on the San Andreas fault, sleep on dynamite -- however carefully it might be stored -- or live in what, should nature gain ever the upper hand, is guaranteed to be the next Atlantis, that's your own choice and until this country gets that point through its head, the blame-game won't find the proper place to start.

If we reconstruct New Orleans, we are signing a promissory note for unlimited absurdity. Evacuate the people, sure. But don't remove all financial liability from living there. Risk should be costly -- that's a deterrent. We have an historical opportunity here: the city is nearly empty, and soon it will be entirely empty except for rapists and looters. Which means: the typical liberal argument (sc.: "the poor people can't afford to move out") is not just bad (as always) but now it's moot: they will be out now. Don't feed the cycle by saying: There, there, the Federal Gov't will pay for your lost house, and build you a new one, and fix all the civil engineering, just so you can go on pretending you don't live in what should be part of the Gulf of Mexico."

Other mindnumbing B.S. includes:

- Looters shooting at FEMA or National Guard helicopters, which then turn away from their objectives. I can't find out whether it was FEMA or the Guard for certain, but if it is the Guard, I can only say: it's just pitiful if our own army gets scared off by a bunch of hoodlums with small arms. Shoot back, and be done with it. People are dying by the minute and we are going to pussyfoot around with some punk with a rifle? Declare martial law and stop playing pattycake with anarchists.

- Comparisons between Katrina and the Tsunami. As callous as this may sound: please, get perspective. The death toll of the tsunami (nearly 200,000 people) is probably about two orders of magnitude greater than Katrina. Yes, we should care about our own coutrymen more, and its hideous down there, but making direct comparisons (which almost always turn immediately to some idea of comparable fiscal entitlement) just falls flat.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 9/02/2005 01:53:00 AM | link

Abortion is Funny! Just Ask Larry King! from Macho Nachos, who has other gems, such as this one on Iraq, which begins with a dead-on observation:

"What often disappoints me about my generation is the shocking lack of willingness that we have to defend ourselves and our culture from threats - and the weak-kneed lack of resolve to see even the most banal conflict through to its conclusion."

And proceeds to the application:

"Our generation, on the other hand, in becoming weary of a war not yet three years old, fought by an army composed entirely of volunteers, in which we are suffering an average of two deaths per day, has demonstrated itself to be the most spineless and weak-kneed generation in recent American history."

Please sign my name to the declaration that says our casuality level barely registers on the scale of "warfare." We took over two whole countries! What will liberals do next, "blame Bush" for cuts and bruises? Really, we are a nation of wimps. You don't need a neon sign to tell you that -- we have women in our army, for goodness' sake. When we lose our liberty we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 9/02/2005 01:45:00 AM | link

Pray for New Orleans
NoLa.com has breaking news stories.

Two levee failures have really hurt the city. And the fact that they're living in a flood plain below sea level.

For more:
Katrina 05 blog
Arresting photographs of the devastation by WWLTV
Flickr feed

The thing I can't stand is the looting. For every cop that has to police a looted area, someone goes without emergency aid. And some of the cops seem pretty strung out and unable to cope with the challenges of de facto martial law. I saw a local TV a news clip of some totally ineffectual, fat, female police officer giving a young black man what amounted to a few cuffs on the face and arms and nearly pulling his shirt off in a slight tussle while he was trying to steal a TV from a Walmart -- all while the kid was smiling and laughing at her, then he gleefully ran away. Surely to another store. She didn't hit him with a baton, pepper spray, or, dare I suggest?, shoot him in the knee. She just played footsie with him and moved on. Absolutely stupid. They should issue a "looters shot on sight" announcement the day before any cat 5 hurricane breaks ground. And if the son-of-a-bitch bleeds out for lack of medical care, then it's his fault for being a parasite while people are starving and drowning.

On the other hand, there have been local reports about men who realize that, at the end of the day, it comes down to you and your shotgun, as it did during the LA riots. Hell, I'll copy them for you:

In Uptown, one the few areas that remained dry, a bearded man patrolled Oak Street near the boarded-up Maple Leaf Bar, a sawed-off shotgun slung over his shoulder. The owners of a hardware store sat in folding chairs, pistols at the ready.

Uptown resident Keith Williams started his own security patrol, driving around in his Ford pickup with his newly purchased handgun. Earlier in the day, Williams said he had seen the body of a gunshot victim near the corner of Leonidas and Hickory streets.

"What I want to know is why we don’t have paratroopers with machine guns on every street," Williams said.

[Because it's the local population's constitutionally-designated duty to arm itself and form militias during times of crisis. -- O.O.]

Like-minded Art Depodesta sat on the edge of a picnic table outside Cooter Brown’s Bar, a chrome shotgun at his side loaded with red shells.

"They broke into the Shell station across the street," he said. "I walked over with my 12-gauge and shot a couple into the air."

The looters scattered, but soon after, another man appeared outside the bar in a pickup truck armed with a pistol and threatened Depodesta.

"I told him, ‘Listen, I was in the Army and I will blow your ass off,’" Depodesta said. "We’ve got enough trouble with the flood."

The man sped away.

"You know what sucks," Depodesta said. "The whole U.S. is looking at this city right now, and this is what they see."

In the Bywater, a supply store sported spray-painted signs reading "You Loot, I Shoot" and "You Bein Watched." A man seated nearby with a rifle in his lap suggested it was no idle threat. At the Bywater studio of Dr. Bob, the artist known for handpainted "Be Nice or Leave" signs, a less fanciful sentiment was painted on the wall: "Looters Will Be Shot. Dr. Bob."

Oh, yeah, and almost as bad as the looters are enviro-lefty political opportunists spouting sensationalist, pseudo-scientific bullshit about the hurricane.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/31/2005 04:39:00 AM | link

There are many ways in which Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism share an approach to the practical conduct of the spiritual life: the emphasis on tradition as the way to approach the written law, high value on properly conducted liturgy, a belief that religious authority can provide answers even to relatively small questions of proper conduct, and so forth. For today's example, replace "rabbi" with "confessor" and mutatis mutandis, this commentary on Pirke Avot 1:6 reads like a Catholic catechism.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/27/2005 10:58:00 AM | link

In articulo mortis

A reader from the Life Is Worth Living Institute writes a letter about brain death and the sacraments. Excerpts from the letter are in italics; my replies below.

My heart goes out to the Torres family. I am in no way criticizing the decision they made to remove Susan from life support, a decision that is compatible with Catholic moral teaching regarding the withdrawal of "heroic" or "extraordinary" medical treatment. I simply have a problem with the diagnosis of "brain death," as reported in previous articles about this case...

If she died three months ago, what good would the last sacraments have done her last Wednesday? Was Susan still present, body and soul, in spite of the the "brain dead" diagnosis?

Although I am a theologian (in training, at least), I have to plead ignorance on the medical front regarding a precise diagnosis of brain death. Solid Catholic moral theology on these matters requires a familiarity with the science, which, in this case, I lack.

But I can tell you a few things from sacramental theology. It has long been Catholic practice to administer viaticum* to the dying even if it is unclear to the priest whether the recipient is conscious, or indeed still alive. One thing that isn't new with 20th-century medicine is our human inability to tell if someome is really dead or unconscious yet. In earlier times, comatose patients were usually the textbook cases; nowadays, the brain dead are more commonly sited, or the nearly-dead (i.e., someone in the process of dying. Suppose the priest arrives 20 seconds after the heart stopped beating for what later was known with certainty as the last time.) In ALL such cases, the pastoral recommendation of the Church is to give the patient the benefit of the doubt and to administer the sacraments because this is their last chance before the judgment of their soul to receive forgiveness for their sins and the strengthening of spirit that comes from the Eucharist and the anointing of the sick.

This benefit of the doubt is construed VERY broadly in the case of the dying, again, just to be on the safe side. It would be horrible to deny a dying person his last chance for the sacraments if indeed he was capable of receiving them. So in any case where you have a warm body, priests usually err on the safe side and administer the sacraments. This goes for many other cases than that of Susan Torres. For example, when they pull an extremely badly burned body from a fire, a priest standing by will administer anointing if possible in the hopes the person is still alive. If they are dead, of course, the sacrament is invalid. But that analysis can be made later. The only case in which it is forbidden to administer the sacraments is when the person is indubitably dead -- i.e., a cold body for a few hours, or someone blown to bits by a bomb, etc.

I mention all this to say that, with respect to your concerns, the mere fact that a priest adminsitered viaticum doesn't add up to any kind of useful statement about whether Torres was conscious or what "brain death" means, since the whole practice is designed for situations where the conscious state of the person is unclear.

*(Viaticum is just a name for the series of sacraments administered in anticipation of forthcoming death: confession if possible, anointing of the sick, and the Eucharist. The trio is so named because it "goes with" the Viator, or "pilgrim" on his journey from this world to the next.)

In the case of organ harvesting, is "brain death" merely a legal fiction that allows the removal of organs from someone before he/she is certainly and finally dead?

You don't have to sell me on this point. That's why I'm not an organ donor, and I insist on the same for my wife, who thinks I'm a bit paranoid about medics who would rather take your organs to help an easier patient than to work on you when critically injured. But with the utilitarian stripe in medicine these days, I'd rather be on the safe side.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/26/2005 02:02:00 AM | link

73% Barth? I hate Barth, or at least the early Barth. And how is predestination important for me? Quiz via Evil Traditionalist at Steubie.

You scored as Augustine. You have a big view of God and also take human sin and depravity very seriously. Predestination is important for you.





Karl Barth


Friedrich Schleiermacher


John Calvin


Charles Finney


Jonathan Edwards


Jürgen Moltmann


Martin Luther


Paul Tillich


Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

"And now for something completely different..." Yet accurate.

You scored as Metallica. You are one cool, oldschool dude! You love the raw beauty of greats whether it be an appreciation for a fine wine, or a fine lady. You have the rhythm.







System of a Down








Marilyn Manson


What Heavy Metal Band Are You!?
created with QuizFarm.com

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/25/2005 09:16:00 PM | link

Two friends need your prayers.
In the past two days, I've learned that two people I know both have wives in this unhappy situation: After a miscarriage, they're having a difficult pregnancy again.

Having just had our own precious little girl, I now know how helpless you can feel during those critical months. Please pray for these two families and their little ones, that God may bring them to full health and a safe delivery.

St. Gerard, pray for us!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/22/2005 05:20:00 PM | link

Ruth is not scarlet
Comments on this post about Ruth at Jimmy Akin's website have been referring people to my much earlier remarks about the sexual interpretation of the Ruth and Boaz story in Ruth 3.

I believe that the sexual interpretation is wrong-headed, and I'd like to provide a few notes on reading the passage. With all due respect to Jimmy Akin -- who does good work on his website, and acts from good will, and who proposed this reading only as an hypothesis -- I think the interpretation he proposes overlooks some key facts and is deleterious to the moral sense of this book of Scripture. Moreover, it seems to be based on the use of contemporary resources whose philology might be keen, but whose sensus fidei is blurry. The prominence of the sexual interpretation in modern commentaries makes a good object lesson on sound exegetical method, something we need more of in all corners of the Catholic world. This is not a critique of Jimmy Akin. It's a critique of whatever commentary he used that contained this reading.

Yes, both "hand" and "foot" can sometimes be circumlocutions for male genitalia. We use "third leg" in the same way today. Certain Qumran scrolls containing the disciplinary rules of the community have recently confirmed these circumlocutions persisting until the time of Christ -- they punished any many who "stuck his hand out of his garment" at another man, which certainly didn't mean showing your actual hand!

Yet, much more than the mere possibility of juicy innuendo is required before we impute impious motives to Ruth and Boaz. (And in our sexualized modern age, we sometimes see juicy innuendo in more places than it actually exists.) The problem here is a problem of bad exegetical method in assessing motive.

We live in the shadows of bad mid-century exegesis, which was divorced from both traditional commentaries on Scripture and the rule of faith, but well-versed in the past two centuries' philological advances and the findings of comparative near Eastern studies. A typical feature of modernist exegesis is premature imputation of sinful motivations when they are not there. This tendency is the pendulum swinging the other way in reaction to the opposite tendency in 18th & 19th century traditional exegesis: namely, the tendency to gloss over the sinfulness of the holier figures in Scripture, and to stretch these pietistic interpretations beyond textual warrant. As I said earlier, Scripture is no respecter of persons.

But we readers should be respectful -- at least in giving figures like Ruth and Boaz the exegetical benefit of the doubt. We must find the mean between the modernist tendency to impute sinfulness presumptuously and the pietistic opposite extreme. Two rules of thumb can guide us.

First, Scripture often makes explicit mention of a sinful behavior, e.g., Judah and Tamar, if the behavior figures prominently in the moral of the story. David & Bathsheba is another great example. Second, when Scripture wants to take a more delicate approach to critiquing the behavior of a patriarchal figure, the negative consequences of the action serve as a critique of bad behavior. For example, Abraham's sin with Hagar is punished by the imposition of the penitential sign of circumcision. (There are other reasons for the sign of circumcision as well, but I'm not going to write about that here.) Abraham lacked faith in the admittedly puzzling situation of God's repeated promise of offspring despite the apparent infertility of Sarah. So Abraham fell short, and followed the logic of the flesh in trying to raise up offspring according to the promise of the covenant with Hagar. The Scriptural narrative does not castigate him outright in strong terms like David is castigated by Nathan, because Abraham's sin was not a sin of passion (like Judah's) or outright violation of a known law (like David's).

Neither of these ways of indicating impious behavior are present in the story of Ruth and Boaz. Therefore, I side with the more common (at least, more common pre-20th century) interpretation that Ruth approaches Boaz in great humility, and lays at his feet as a gesture of submission. Boaz's spreading of his cloak is a symbol of his protection in return, specifically in this context, a pledge of betrothal.

Remember that Ruth is already a destitute foreigner. As such, there seems to be some tension when she mingles with Boaz's own field workers, as indicated by the passage in Ruth 2 where Boaz issues orders that Ruth is not to be mistreated and instructs his workers to leave some gleanings for her.

If that's how Ruth's social situation stands, how do you think she will dare to approach Boaz himself? Walk right up to him in the middle of the festival when he is reclining in his finest robes, officiating over the feast, and probably surrounded by his closest friends and senior members of his household? Maybe Scarlet O'Hara can wrap a drapery around herself and look grand in the midst of her destitution, but Ruth isn't Scarlet. Ruth can't "compete" nor does she want to "make a scene." She approaches Boaz after the festival perhaps because he is likely to be well-disposed to her after feasting and celebrating all day, but she approaches him at the end, when he is alone, because of her humility and poverty.

Why does Boaz instruct Ruth to scurry away before dawn in Ruth 3:14? The interpretation Akin proposes insinuates that this scene is equivalent to the early-morning "walk of shame" on college campuses, when the woman goes back to her own domicile after cohabitation. Scripture itself tells us differently. Ruth 3:13 is completely overlooked in the aforementioned interpretation.

Boaz lets Ruth stay the night (Ruth 3:13a). We are not told why, but I think it is likely because of concern for her comfort and safety. He's not going to send a lone foreign woman to walk home to Naomi in the middle of the night on a few hours' sleep. Nobody would do this today if a woman happened to fall asleep at your place.

But what explains Boaz's clear concern to avoid some kind of scandal? Ruth 3:13b tells us: While Ruth believed that Boaz was her next-of-kin*, he was not. A prior man had claim to Ruth. Therefore, Boaz wanted to avoid the appearance of an impropriety: using his prominence to displace the legal rights of a poorer, less-powerful man. Boaz settles with the true next-of-kin first, in a public forum, and only then does he publicly announce his desire to wed Ruth. That's why he sends her away: to do things in right order, decorously.

(*Side note on "Next of kin." The phrase is technically, go'el, or "redeemer." According to the law of Moses, a kinsman of Ruth's late Jewish husband Elimelech had to marry Ruth to "redeem" Elimelech's land and inheritance, lest Ruth marry a Moabite and part of the land of Israel pass over into Moabite possession.)

As for other OT texts which discuss the nature of Boaz's symbolic action of spreading the cloak, compare Ezek 16:8, where Israel is depicted as an absolutely destitute maiden (like Ruth) and Yahweh spreads His cloak over Israel as a pledge of betrothal. Although Akin maintains that "snuggling up to the feet" has no analogue elsewhere in Scripture, Boaz's response certainly does. And if one looks just a little more broadly in Scripture, one finds that putting oneself at the feet of another is a widely-encountered gesture of submission. Jewish military leaders forcibly subjugate their enemies (literally, they put the enemy's neck beneath their feet) to humiliate them. The famous Psalm 110 shows the Messiah with all His enemies under His feet, serving as His "footstool." Jesus, in a gesture of complete self-abasement, washes the disciples' feet to show them how they must submit themselves to one another. Ruth is picking up on this same imagery by laying at Boaz's feet, rather than walking up to him directly, or waking him from his sleep, or snuggling up beside to him, presumptuously assuming the posture of a wife.

For all these reasons, I suggest the text is not "weird" and that the proposed interpretation be rejected. Moreover, the moral sense offered by Akin's proposed interpretation is weird, to say the least, when compared to its alternative. One could attempt to stitch together some lesson about the virtue of "determination" out of the proposed interpretation, but whatever virtue might be there, is tainted with a kind of sinful sexual pragmatism. Indeed, in the proposed interpretation, everybody's motives are tainted (Boaz, Ruth, and Naomi) and there is no one really to emulate wholeheartedly, despite the fact that the Book of Ruth has been received for centuries as containing a story whose protagonists are morally laudable.

I also note, to pre-empt a possible objection, that the Book of Ruth is generally believed to take place during the time of the judges, and as such, comes after the giving of the Mosaic law. This puts our assessment of their actions in a different light compared to stories in Genesis where the patriarchs or other people sometimes do things which would later be censured as immoral after the law is given. We have higher expectations of Ruth and Boaz going into the story, and in this case, I think both Ruth and Boaz live up to them.

Perhaps the topic is close to my heart because the more I study the history of the interpretation of Scripture, the more I see how many rich and upbuilding interpretations have been replaced by those which are morally empty or questionable. It's part of the reason why U.S. Catholic preaching is so terrible sometimes. It's part of the reason why reading the New Jerome Bible Commentary can be as factually enlightening as it is dogmatically sterile.

When faced with two possible interpretations of a text, we shouldn't jump to one over the other just because we can extract a better moral. Other interpretative considerations must be satisfied first. But it is depressing when, so often, a morally superior reading is neglected because it is often more difficult or slightly more obscure, and the hearty bread of the Word of God is watered down into porridge.

I note in conclusion: This post isn't about Jimmy Akin or his work. The interpretation he stumbled across is a common one. I blogged about it two years ago for that reason. I just think Ruth 3 brings to light a problem which is rampant in even Catholic exegesis, and needs to be fixed.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/18/2005 03:55:00 PM | link

Kidsbeer: a non-alcoholic, guarana-based beer-like brew aimed at children in Japan. Why such a product? Because, as the manufacturer tells us, "Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink." (Thanks to Eve.)

On a related theme, single gentlemen of the blogosphere, nota bene:
Conservative, Catholic, computer programmer, and she can make ice cream out of Guiness stout.

Alternate writing assignments for philosophy professors: interview the lead singer of a popular band. (HT)

Also welcome to the MSN searchers coming here looking for Alien vs. Predator 2 CD key. The key is here, the hermeneutical key to the whole movie, that is. Or at least how the movie should have evolved if it dared to dream, and to dared to push the recent marriage initiatves a little further.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/17/2005 01:41:00 PM | link

More Domestic Quotes:

O.O.: My stomach feels terrible.

Zorak: What did you have to eat today?

O.O.: Cognac, pop tarts and some caffeine pills. Do you think that's the problem?


Teething Mini-Mantis, at the table: "Skkrreeeeeeeee!"

Zorak: "Now Mini-Mantis, that tone is not appropriate for...."

Baby: "SkrreeeeEEEEEEEeeee!"

Zorak (trying not to smile): "...social situations."

Baby obligingly switches tone: "Ba-waa. Ah-na. Ga."

Zorak: "That's right, Ba-ba-ba, like bottle, and bird."

Baby: "SkrreeeeEEEEEEEeeee!"

Zorak tries hard not to express laughing vexation.


Zorak arrives in medias res and finds Old Oligarch sitting in a circle with the baby and three stuffed animals, playing puppet with the cow.

O.O. (in strange voice): As a cow, I take up a lot of prime matter, so that idea is very important to me. For your excellent presentation, Mr. Rabbit, you get this silver rattle. (In another voice, taking the rabbit.) Thank you.

Zorak, curious: Are you having a tea party with Mini-Mantis?

O.O.: No, we are playing "colloquium."


Zorak: "Did you just call me a skank!?"

OO: "No, I said, 'Hey, you skink!' "

Zorak: "Oh." (pauses) "That's not much better."


The Christa Seminar

During a morning of particular snarkiness:

Zorak says something about "Christa" -- i.e., the notion, cherished by certain feminists, that either the Logos or the Holy Spirit will become incarnate in some future time as a woman, to "balance out" the evils caused by the fact Christ was a man.

O.O.: Conservatives should form the equivalent of the Jesus Seminar and call it the "Christa seminar."

Zorak: But what would it "research" since there was no "Christa"?

O.O.: It wouldn't have to. The Jesus Seminar doesn't have a method rooted in any concept of historical authenticity, so the Christa Seminar wouldn't have to either.

Zorak: What would it do?

O.O.: Write all sorts of narratives about "what the true Christa" would do, as if it was a fait accompli. How would Christa vote? How did Christa die? Just flood the market with so many fantastic counter-narratives that people don't give a crap about the original Christa any more.

Zorak looks incredulous, but plays along. Suggests that the death scene could be modelled on the death of Socrates, but this time, Christa is surrounded by her coven of wise elderly women, and sends the men to go home and take care of the children. Then amends that Christa probably would have aborted her children.

O.O.: Or we could claim to have discovered a "lost Gospel of Christa," and have her do all sorts of embarassing things...

Zorak blinks.

O.O. files the idea under "Things to do once I've lost my mind."

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/15/2005 01:07:00 PM | link

Happy Feast of the Assumption!

Here's some photos of the pope settling into being photogenic:

Pope Benedict told pilgrims that vacation has become a necessity to escape the frenetic pace of day-to-day life, especially for city dwellers.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/15/2005 02:59:00 AM | link

St. Peter Damian: The Doctor of the Church We'd Rather Not Talk About
(Or, the Eleventh Century's Teachings for Today)

Nowadays, I'd be surprised if a Ph.D. student in Catholic theology was required to read any Doctor of the Church other than St. Thomas. Moreover, I don't think a majority could say they've spent any amount of time on the other Doctors outside of the big three: Augustine, Thomas, Bonaventure. They're too busy reading Rahner, Küng, and the latest ephemera in journals. Yet the Church confers these titles for a reason, and if I was running a graduate program, I'd want basic familiarity with the writings of the Doctors to be part of the comps program, at least for dogmatic and historical theologians.

I've known about St. Peter Damian for a while, but only just recently discovered that he was given the title Doctor of the Church. He's probably the last Doctor your DRE will tell you about, since he's remembered most for four things:

1) Writing the lengthiest analysis and condemnation of homosexuality in the Middle Ages, the "Liber Gomorrhianus" which can be found in the Patrologia Latina, 145.

2) Promoting the practice of self-flagellation in monastic life, and leading by example

3) Stern condemnations of simony, yet avoiding donatism, which often put him in the cross-fire of rival ecclesial factions in the decadent late 11th century

4) Working to reconcile schism and antipopes

New Advent has The Life of Peter Damian.

I blog all this because I happened to come across a nice little catena of church teachings about homosexuality from Patristic and Medieval times. Since the book turns out to be written by someone with schismatic tendencies, I won't link to it. (Too bad the author couldn't be bothered to include simple citations to the original works of the Fathers.) Since this is a personal blog and not an academic enterprise, I'll just pilfer the knowledge and move on. In the words of Jack Black, "that's how I roll." If the original author didn't cast aspersions on God's chosen Pontiffs, I would magnify him. But since he withholds the honor due Peter, I will not honor him, but despoil him like an Egyptian.

The quotation in extensis is below:


The first statement of a Church council on homosexual practices was issued by the Council of Elvira (305-306). The decree excludes from communion, even in articulo mortis (at the moment of death), the stupratores puerorum (corrupters of boys). The decree of the Council of Ancyra, held in Asia Minor in 314, strongly influenced the Church of the West, and it was often cited as authoritative in later enactments against homosexual practices. Canon 17 speaks about those “who . . . commit [acts of] defilement with animals or males.” The Council of Ancyra established for these crimes a series of punishments according to the age and state of life the infractor:

“Those who have committed such crimes before age twenty, after fifteen years of penance, will be readmitted to the communion of prayer. Then, after remaining five years in that communion, let them receive the sacraments of oblation. However, let their lives be analyzed to establish how long a period of penance they should sustain in order to obtain mercy. For if they unrestrainedly gave themselves over to these crimes, let them devote more time to doing penance. However, those aged twenty and over and married who fall into these crimes, let them do penance for twenty-five years and [then] be received in the communion of prayer; and, remaining in it for five years, let them finally receive the sacraments of oblation. Moreover, if those who are married and over fifty years of age commit these crimes, let them obtain the grace of communion only at the end of their lives.”

Pope Saint Siricius (384-399) issued norms for admission into the priestly state. They apply indirectly to homosexuality: “We deem it advisable to establish that, just as not everyone should be allowed to do a penance reserved for clerics, so also a layman should never be allowed to ascend to clerical honor after penance and reconciliation. Because although they have been purified of the contagion of all sins, those who formerly indulged in a multitude of vices should not receive the instruments to administer the Sacraments.”

In the opening speech of the XVI Council of Toledo in 693, Egica, the Gothic King of Spain, exhorts the clergy to fight against homosexual practices: “See that you determine to extirpate that obscene crime committed by those who lie with males, whose fearful conduct defiles the charm of honest living and provokes from heaven the wrath of the Supreme Judge.”

The most complete set of norms against homosexual practices in the medieval era is contained in the canons approved at the Council of Naplouse, assembled on January 23, 1120 under the direction of Garmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Baldwin, King of the same city. On that occasion, a sermon was preached about the evils that had befallen the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Earthquakes, plagues, and attacks by the Saracens were judged as a punishment from Heaven for the sins of the people. As a consequence, the Council issued twenty-five canons against the sins of the flesh, four of which related to homosexual practices. Death at the stake was decreed for those convicted of those specific crimes.

The Third Lateran Council (1179) establishes: “Anyone caught in the practice of the sin against nature, on account of which the wrath of God was unleashed upon the children of disobedience (Eph. 5:6), if he is a cleric, let him be demoted from his state and kept in reclusion in a monastery to do penance; if he is a layman, let him be excommunicated and kept rigorously distant from the communion of the faithful.”

Such was the horror that surrounded the sin against nature that, by the late twelfth century, sodomy was a reserved sin for which absolution was reserved to the Pope and, in some cases, to the Bishop.

Nevertheless, with the Renaissance this vice surfaced again. Homosexuality was a matter of grave concern to Saint Pius V. As well-known historian von Pastor narrates, “In the first year of his pontificate, the Pope had two preponderant concerns: zeal for the Inquisition and the struggle against ‘this horrendous sin whereby the justice of God caused the cities contaminated by it to be consumed in flames.’ On April 1, 1566, he ordered that sodomites be turned over to the secular arm. . . . The various imprisonments of sodomites . . . impressed Rome and frightened especially well-established people, for it was known that the Pope wanted his laws enforced even against the powerful. Indeed, to punish for vices against nature, the torment of the stake was applied throughout the pontificate of Saint Pius V. . . . An earlier papal Brief mandated that clerics who were guilty of that crime be stripped of all their posts, dignities, and income, and, after degradation, be handed over to the secular arm.” The Holy Inquisitor promulgated two Constitutions in which he castigates and punishes the sin against nature.

In the Constitution Cum Primum of April 1, 1566, Saint Pius V solemnly established: “Having set our minds to remove everything that may in some way offend the Divine Majesty, We resolve to punish, above all and without indulgence, those things which, by the authority of the Sacred Scriptures or by most grievous examples, are most repugnant to God and elicit His wrath; that is, negligence in divine worship, ruinous simony, the crime of blasphemy, and the execrable libidinous vice against nature. For which faults peoples and nations are scourged by God, according to His just condemnation, with catastrophes, wars, famine and plagues. . . . Let the judges know that, if even after this, Our Constitution, they are negligent in punishing these crimes, they will be guilty of them at Divine Judgment and will also incur Our indignation. . . . If someone commits that nefarious crime against nature that caused divine wrath to be unleashed against the children of iniquity, he will be given over to the secular arm for punishment; and if he is a cleric, he will be subject to analogous punishment after having been stripped of all his degrees [of ecclesiastical dignity].”

Saint Pius V is no less rigorous in the Constitution Horrendum Illud Scelus of August 30, 1568. He teaches: “That horrible crime, on account of which corrupt and obscene cities were burned by virtue of divine condemnation, causes Us most bitter sorrow and shocks Our mind, impelling it to repress such a crime with the highest possible zeal.

Quite opportunely the Fifth Lateran Council [1512-1517] decrees: Let any member of the clergy caught in that vice against nature . . . be removed from the clerical order or forced to do penance in a monastery (chap. 4, X, V, 31). “So that the contagion of such a grave offense may not advance with greater audacity, taking advantage of impunity, which is the greatest incitement to sin, and so as to more severely punish the clerics who are guilty of this nefarious crime and who are not frightened by the death of their souls, We determine that they should be handed over to the secular authority, which enforces civil law. Therefore, wishing to pursue with the greatest rigor that which We have decreed since the beginning of Our Pontificate, We establish that any priest or member of the clergy, either secular or regular, who commits such an execrable crime, by force of the present law be deprived of every clerical privilege, of every post, dignity and ecclesiastical benefit, and having been degraded by an ecclesiastical judge, be immediately delivered to the secular authority to be executed as mandated by law, according to the appropriate punishment for laymen plunged in this abyss.”

The Code of Canon Law undertaken at the initiative and encouragement of Saint Pius X, and published in 1917 by his successor Pope Benedict XV, says this: “So far as laymen are concerned, the sin of sodomy is punished ipso facto with the pain of infamy and other sanctions to be applied according to the prudent judgment of the Bishop depending on the gravity of each case (Can. 2357). As for ecclesiastics and religious, if they are clerici minoris [that is, of a degree lower than deacon], let them be punished with various measures, proportional to the gravity of the fault, that can even include dismissal from the clerical state (Can. 2358); if they are clerici maiores [that is, deacons, priests or bishops], let them ‘be declared infamous and suspended from every post, benefit, dignity, deprived of their eventual stipend and, in the gravest cases, let them be deposed’ (Can. 2359, par. 2).”

Tertullian, the great apologist of the Church in the second century, writes: “All other frenzies of lusts which exceed the laws of nature and are impious toward both bodies and the sexes we banish . . . from all shelter of the Church, for they are not sins so much as monstrosities.”

Saint Basil of Caesarea, the fourth century Church Father who wrote the principal rule of the monks of the East, establishes this: “The cleric or monk who molests youths or boys or is caught kissing or committing some turpitude, let him be whipped in public, deprived of his crown [tonsure] and, after having his head shaved, let his face be covered with spittle; and [let him be] bound in iron chains, condemned to six months in prison, reduced to eating rye bread once a day in the evening three times per week. After these six months living in a separate cell under the custody of a wise elder with great spiritual experience, let him be subjected to prayers, vigils and manual work, always under the guard of two spiritual brothers, without being allowed to have any relationship . . . with young people.”

Saint Augustine is categorical in the combat against sodomy and similar vices. The great Bishop of Hippo writes: “Sins against nature, therefore, like the sin of Sodom, are abominable and deserve punishment whenever and wherever they are committed. If all nations committed them, all alike would be held guilty of the same charge in God’s law, for our Maker did not prescribe that we should use each other in this way. In fact, the relationship that we ought to have with God is itself violated when our nature, of which He is Author, is desecrated by perverted lust.”

Further on he reiterates: “Your punishments are for the sins which men commit against themselves, because, although they sin against You, they do wrong in their own souls and their malice is selfbetrayed. They corrupt and pervert their own nature, which You made and for which You shaped the rules, either by making wrong use of the things which You allow, or by becoming inflamed with passion ‘to make unnatural use of things which You do not allow’ (Rom. 1:26).”

Saint John Chrysostom denounces homosexual acts as being contrary to nature. Commenting on the Epistle to the Romans (1:26-27), he says that the pleasures of sodomy are an unpardonable offense to nature and are doubly destructive, since they threaten the species by deviating the sexual organs away from their primary procreative end and they sow disharmony between men and women, who no longer are inclined by physical desire to live together in peace.

The brilliant Patriarch of Constantinople employs most severe words for the vice we are analyzing. Saint John Chrysostom makes this strong argument: “All passions are dishonorable, for the soul is even more prejudiced and degraded by sin than is the body by disease; but the worst of all passions is lust between men. . . . The sins against nature are more difficult and less rewarding, so much so that one cannot even say that they procure pleasure, since true pleasure is only the one according to nature. But when God abandons a man, everything is turned upside down! Therefore, not only are their passions [of the homosexuals] satanic, but their lives are diabolic. . . . So I say to you that these are even worse than murderers, and that it would be better to die than to live in such dishonor. A murderer only separates the soul from the body, whereas these destroy the soul inside the body. . . . There is nothing, absolutely nothing more mad or damaging than this perversity.”

Saint Gregory the Great delves deeper into the symbolism of the fire and brimstone that God used to punish the sodomites: “Brimstone calls to mind the foul odors of the flesh, as Sacred Scripture itself confirms when it speaks of the rain of fire and brimstone poured by the Lord upon Sodom. He had decided to punish in it the crimes of the flesh, and the very type of punishment emphasized the shame of that crime, since brimstone exhales stench and fire burns. It was, therefore, just that the sodomites, burning with perverse desires that originated from the foul odor of flesh, should perish at the same time by fire and brimstone so that through this just chastisement they might realize the evil perpetrated under the impulse of a perverse desire.”

Saint Peter Damian’s Liber Gomorrhianus [Book of Gomorrha], addressed to Pope Leo IX in the year 1051, is considered the principal work against homosexuality. It reads: “Just as Saint Basil establishes that those who incur sins [against nature] . . . should be subjected not only to a hard penance but a public one, and Pope Siricius prohibits penitents from entering clerical orders, one can clearly deduce that he who corrupts himself with a man through the ignominious squalor of a filthy union does not deserve to exercise ecclesiastical functions, since those who were formerly given to vices . . . become unfit to administer the Sacraments.”

Saint Albert the Great gives four reasons why he considers homosexual acts as the most detestable ones: They are born from an ardent frenzy; they are disgustingly foul; those who become addicted to them are seldom freed from that vice; they are as contagious as disease, passing quickly from one person to another.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, writing about sins against nature, explains: “However, they are called passions of ignominy because they are not worthy of being named, according to that passage in Ephesians (5:12): ‘For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of.’ For if the sins of the flesh are commonly censurable because they lead man to that which is bestial in him, much more so is the sin against nature, by which man debases himself lower than even his animal nature.”

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/15/2005 02:21:00 AM | link

Führer nurture

Hitler's sister's journal discovered in Germany, revealing never-known before facts about Hitler's early life. Routinely beaten by his father; not a starving artist. Hypotheses a'flying. Apparently his relatives are agreeing to be interviewed before they die, as well.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/13/2005 09:42:00 PM | link

I've become a clearing-house for anti-panda propaganda. Today one pandascenti brings you this footage of a panda mauling an innocent bystander. Click the image to launch the movie.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/13/2005 09:37:00 PM | link

A Spate o' Links

Tell her you love her with a wedding ring grown from your own bones.

Daily Lush brings you the worst alcoholic beverages known to man.

Carry a briefcase? Also carry a gun? Don't like a holster? Check out the Executive Defense briefcase:

Since the website is scarce on details, I've e-mailed them.

For Zorak, who loves to break off social interaction abruptly: Sorry, Gotta Go, which generates noises that get you off the phone.

Lastly: Bluetooth helps Saudis flirt across Wahabist barriers. What will Wi-Fi LANS do?

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/13/2005 07:44:00 PM | link

An interesting article on a common theme from the Rat: women living in radical denial of the facts of advancing age.

But Ratty's got the root cause of the denial wrong: it's not fear of death that leads some generic "us" to "punish women." It's the fact that feminism has held out to women the devil's bargain of being like men in every respect: having careers that blossom in one's 30s, being sexually liberated, etc. But fertility declines with age, and most intense career paths are somewhat, if not majorly, opposed to marrying and having children at this time. Yet to marry and have children is a powerful desire in the female heart, so women try to do both and get burned in the crossfire. Those who flee the responsibility of that choice have themselves to blame.

I believe that feminism would have scarcely gotten off the ground if it initially offered women the absolute dichotomy: sacrifice all prospect of traditional courtship and children in order to be "liberated" for working 50 hours in an office and eternal teenage promiscuity, or remain in your present social situation. So it told the great lie that you can be a mommy and a corporate Tsarina at the same time, with the result that two generations of women have found themselves miserable and overextended, with sub-optimal family life, or worse, in their 40s, nearly barren, and alone.

It's not fear of death that's driving that dynamic. It is the Enlightenment idea that all things Unchosen are evil, which includes the constraints of gender, and the concomitant promise that through political reform and science, we can liberate everyone from the limiting givenness that typifies the human condition. And it's not some vague "we" who are punishing women. The proximate blame falls precisely on feminism (indeed, mostly women), but the ultimate blame involves all those men and women who tinkered with the familial arrangement since WWI -- including the promiscuous behavior of post-WWI men, 20s sexual decadence on both sides, the two-income family, etc.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/12/2005 04:10:00 PM | link

According to most doctors, their decision-making authority about your child's care is greater than that of your religious doctrine and your parental directives.

According to this article:

"Many US doctors believe that the religious convictions of their patients should outweigh their own professional advice when it comes to making certain medical decisions. When the patient is a child, however, a large majority of doctors say that they, and not the child's guardian, should have the final say, regardless of the guardian's religious beliefs."

84% of them, in fact.

N.B., this fits squarely with the modern secular value system: You have complete autonomy over yourself, if an adult, and thus are free to engage in any fetish you might like, including faith-based refusal of certain treatments. (In our pornographic paradise of limitless sodomy and baby-murdering for sex, who's to deny the Jehovah's Witness his "kink" of avoiding blood transfusions? We all have our "thing," and some of us have it in churches or hospitals, says the modernist.)

But faith remains only that: a private sentiment to be indulged only when it affects "no one else" -- as is clearly shown by the hierarchy of authories when treating someone else, the child:

Religious Doctrine

Why do I rank them in this order? Because parental desires are clearly a contender when matched against physician intent in most cases where there is room for debate (such as in prudential difference of opinion) but not when the parental desires are religiously motivated -- the finding of the survey. Then parental desire loses hands down. So religion makes parents lose authority in the eyes of doctors.

This finding is the direct consequence of the Enlightenment and its glorification of reason alone and personal autonomy over traditional authority, any involuntary freedom-limiting relationship (such as the parent-child one), and religion. The ultimate authority of parents over their own children is denied, and the doctor as Rational Agent is exalted over all.

I wonder if there are similar findings when discussing religion-based conflicts between doctor and incapacitated spouse? (Although one expects rationalists are less willing to intrude here because the spouse usually at some point makes a voluntary decision to trust the other with his care; whereas, for the child, you have the textbook case of choices made for someone else involuntarily.)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/11/2005 04:55:00 PM | link

Help eliminate the clap.

Karl at SCM has a discussion going about the pox on liturgy that is clapping.

In our church (St. Leo's, Fairfax), they have a clappy problem, especially at the 5pm Sunday "folk" Mass which features glory and praise music from the Steuby hymnal.

To me it breaks down like this:

(1) Some people clap because they haven't a clue what to do in church. These folks sit there like it's a movie theatre during the Mass (chewing gum, shuffling to the bathroom, try not to yap too much, hurry to muffle the rining cell phone) and when it's over there's people there in front of you as opposed to a blank movie screen, so they clap. At the end. Of. Every. Mass. (Zorak and I leave during the exit hymn to avoid this. Actually, we don't go to that Mass anymore because the combination of bad music, lack of parishioner discipline, and crowd make me almost lose it every Sunday.) Or they clap because other people are clapping, and the tyranny of let's-all-be-nice holds sway.

(2) Clapping for the band is mindblowingly missing the point. Yet I've found that in many parishes that have a band-like replacement for the choir (i.e. guitar and keyboard, or funked up keyboard music), people get the clapsies. It's hard to tell whether the chicken or the egg comes first here. (I.e. parishes inclined towards this format may have already lost some liturgical sensibility; or else this format tacitly changes people's liturgical presuppositions.)

The entire point of Sacred Music is to humbly lay our song, prayer and actions down in the worship of God, and to focus devotion on Him. Clapping for the band at the end of Mass therefore:

(a) Overlooks the more important performance of the priest, who never seems to receive any applause. This is either because people have some residual innate understanding that clapping for a sacred minister is inappropriate behavior (but they haven't thought out why), or else its an indication of the anticlericalism that often drives the movement to laicize the liturgy. We clap for the band because they haven't been recognized for so long, boo-hoo, while Father is "up there" every week.

(b) Really overlooks the most important performance of God. Karl's post is all about this, and he's right on.

(c) always takes the form of a gesture of community thanks, as if the music was for you. Tell me this attitude isn't ambient when the whole congregation claps: "Great show guys! See you next Sunday!" This is utter liturgical cluelessness, of course, and related to (b), above.

One day, when I lose it, I'm just going to blow an airhorn after the consecration and start clapping all by myself and doing my best Chris Farley imitatioon: "Whooo! Yeah, baby. TransubSTANTiated! That's AWESOME. D'ya see that? Thank you, Father! You be you. Awesome, man..."

(3) Clapping for sacramental achievments or public acts of faith (e.g., for baptisms in the context of Mass, reception of catechumens, public renewal of wedding vows) at least tries to put the focus back in the right place, but it remains plagued by the utter lack of precedent. It never seems to shake the feel that this a "new way" to "really express" something that couldn't be done in the silent awareness of community witness or by traditional prayer. As such, clapping can't avoid awkwardness.

To keep with the disease metaphor: the anthropocentric virus has been neutralized in these cases, but the pock mark of liturgical infection remains. The mark doesn't harm anyone, but you have to explain the abnormality to the uninfected who wonder where it came from.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/11/2005 08:23:00 AM | link

Pius Lads discuss Thomistic views of ensoulment and whether it is possible to believe that the rational soul is infused some time after the day of conception.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/10/2005 11:59:00 PM | link

I think Tom Monaghan should hire this Lego architect to design his new building if he wants an attractive fusion of stone and glass which blends Gothic with modern flare. Check out the other buildings. Hat tip: Holy Whapping.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/10/2005 08:03:00 PM | link

Panda Barrage!
(Thanks to Roy for bringing me all these stories)

Straight dope on the annual costs of keeping the pandas via The Washington Post.

John Tierney of the New York Times is the latest to join the anti-panda movement, favoring the glorification of the polar bear in his article The Good News Bears. I'll take that as an unexpected birthday present.

Lastly, Carol Muller of OpinionJournal (scroll down for article) has this irresistable quip:

"How things might have been different if Paul Tsongas had won the White House! The former Massachusetts senator, who died in 1997, ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992 and was the only presidential candidate ever to run on an antipanda platform. (With his New England accent, it sounded like he was saying "pander bears.") Alas, Tsongas lost to Bill Clinton, who like the panda turned out to be a symbol of gluttony and nonprocreative sexual gratification."

I was going to compare the Panda to the typically obese, consumerist American couch potato, but hey, who am I to stand in the way of kicking Clinton?

So that the content stays around, I'll copy the NYT article in extensis. Since the author is a Kohen, perhaps her family can find some overlooked text in Leviticus concerning burnt panda sacrifices, "a most sweet savour unto the Lord," as Moses usually writes. Or, like her namesake, perhaps she can fetch a tent peg and rid our country of this drowsy foreign menace.

Zoos Find Pandas Don't Make the Cash to Cover Their Keep

By D'Vera Cohn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 7, 2005; Page C01

The giant panda is the rock star of the captive-animal world, the biggest draw there is, and only four U.S. zoos have them, including Washington's National Zoo. But officials at the animal parks say they spend millions of dollars more than they take in on the rare bear, whose appeal has not boosted visitor numbers and souvenir sales as much as hoped.

After the first rush and long lines to see newly arrived pandas, the zoos' experience is that attendance returns to normal. A cub, such as the one born at the National Zoo last month, will reignite the crowds, but only temporarily.

And the expense of keeping pandas is high: $1 million a year to China to borrow the animals, extensive outlays for research required by the federal import permit, construction expenses for lavish new exhibits and spending on basic care.

The four zoos, Washington, Atlanta, Memphis and San Diego, collectively spent $33 million more on pandas from 2000 to 2003 than they received in revenue from exhibiting them, according to figures compiled by Zoo Atlanta chief executive Dennis W. Kelly. Corporate and individual donations reduced the loss to $4 million, he said.

"I don't know of anybody who wants to pull out. We are all very happy to have pandas," said Donald Lindburg, chief of the panda conservation team at the San Diego Zoo, where a cub was born last week. But one reason zoos hope for births, he acknowledged, is monetary: "It also helps allay some of these costs."

The four zoos agreed to have Kelly assemble data so they can use them to lobby China to lower panda rental fees when they try to renew their leases. U.S. zoo officials were dismayed to read media reports that a zoo in Thailand pays $25,000 a year to borrow pandas from China.

The four zoos exhibit pandas with permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which requires that any revenue that exceeds expenses be plowed into programs to improve the endangered animal's status in China. The stipulation was a reaction to several quick, high-profit, rent-a-panda exhibits at U.S. zoos in the 1980s.

Kenneth B. Stansell, the agency's assistant director for international affairs, said the requirement demonstrates that it was never intended "that pandas be a moneymaking proposition, even a break-even proposition.

"The reality of this has begun to settle into some of the zoos." He said some zoos also are having a harder time raising corporate money than when they began fundraising for pandas during the hot economy of the late 1990s, he said.

The $1 million annual payment to China -- plus a one-time $600,000 payment for each cub born -- goes to conservation programs there. Stansell said zoos are free to negotiate lower payments, as long as they meet the federal requirement of enhancing the animal's status in the wild.

Karen Baragona, acting director of the species conservation program of the World Wildlife Fund, said she is not surprised by zoos' contention that they are losing money. But she said having pandas brings benefits: "What pandas do is burnish the image of a zoo. They confer huge prestige upon a zoo."

Said Kelly: "The short point is that nobody has ever made money on these critters after the first year. By the way, we never intended to, and it's against the law to make money.

"I don't think any of us realized how expensive it would be," he said.

Kelly derived his figures from annual reports that the zoos file with the Fish and Wildlife Service but said he "harmonized" the numbers because zoos use different accounting methods. He would not make the all the figures public because his report is not final -- he intends to add data from 1997 to 1999 and for 2004 -- but he said the four zoos are losing about the same amount.

Until recently, the only pandas in the United States long-term were at the National Zoo, which had a pair -- a gift from China -- on display from 1972 until they died in the 1990s. San Diego acquired a pair in 1996 under a 12-year agreement. The female has had three cubs, but only the first birth generated huge excitement. Lindburg said he noticed that he even received fewer letters from schoolchildren after the first cub.

The three other zoos have 10-year leases. The Atlanta Fulton County Zoo, which got pandas in 1999, made layoffs and raised ticket prices after attendance fell in 2001; attendance has since risen but is less than it was when the animals arrived. The Memphis Zoo got its pair of pandas two years ago. Its attendance is still high, but officials are hoping the opening of another exhibit next year will sustain the numbers.

The National Zoo's pandas, female Mei Xiang and male Tian Tian, went on display in January 2001. Before they arrived, National Zoo officials predicted that they would draw an additional 400,000 visitors a year to the free Smithsonian Institution park, and bring $1.2 million more in food, drink and souvenir sales.

In fact, the number of visitors swelled from 2 million in 2000 to 2.8 million in 2001. Last year, there were 1.8 million. Sales of food, drink and souvenirs nearly doubled -- from $5.5 million in 2000 to $10.3 million in 2001. Last year, sales were $6.3 million, according to Friends of the National Zoo, which raises funds for the zoo and runs the concessions.

FONZ officials blame the drop in part on the weakened economy after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and on school field trips canceled because of bad weather or terror alerts. And they caution that their visitor numbers are less reliable than those of zoos that charge admission. But overall, they say, the pandas drove up the number of visitors -- temporarily.

"Our experience when we first brought either set of pandas coming to the National Zoo was that visitation spiked, big-time," said James M. Schroeder, FONZ executive director. "The other zoos -- Memphis, Atlanta, San Diego -- experienced the same thing. What they then experienced, and we are experiencing, too, is that attendance dropped off to more normal levels."

The National Zoo also has found that among people who come to the zoo, fewer drop by the Panda House: 72 percent said they did this spring, compared with 92 percent in 2001, according to a zoo survey. The Panda House is closed until October so mother and cub can bond, but Tian Tian can be seen in the yard when the weather is not too hot.

Unlike other zoos, the National Zoo raised the money it needed -- $25 million for the Chinese loan fee, insurance, a research program and an education outreach effort for 10 years -- before the pandas arrived, according to Schroeder. The pandas' bamboo is donated, but the zoo's annual operating budget pays for other food, keeper salaries and other expenses associated with the pandas' care. Although Fujifilm is funding much of the construction of a panda habitat, some costs are being covered with federal funds.

Schroeder said FONZ is trying to raise $300,000 more this year to hire research assistants to help the zoo scientists expand studies here and in China.

Pandas "are the most charismatic animal there is," Schroeder said, echoing a message conveyed by officials at the other zoos. "Our goal is to get people to come to the zoo and see these animals and celebrate the animals so we can study them and protect them in the future."

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/10/2005 05:34:00 PM | link

"The public will have come to see 9/11 but will be given a high-tech, multimedia tutorial about man's inhumanity to man, from Native American genocide to the lynchings and cross-burnings of the Jim Crow South, from the Third Reich's Final Solution to the Soviet gulags and beyond. This is a history all should know and learn, but dispensing it over the ashes of Ground Zero is like creating a Museum of Tolerance over the sunken graves of the USS Arizona."

(more from Debra Burlingame's Great Ground Zero Heist).

How about we build a Museum of Moorish Aggression on private property somewhere near the Pentagon as a response? We could lovingly detail the military insurgencies, cruel Sharia law, centuries of persecution of Christians, and the brutual treatment of women that typifies this monster that Bush et al. so desperately want to convince us is "a religion of peace" in its heart of hearts. (That's about as true as saying Buddhism's really a religion about Rock and Roll, if only it would get honest with itself and be enlightened by the modern Western democratic experience of Elvis.) We could have special rooms dedicated to all the nuns raped in the Sudan and Israeli children blown up on buses.

The USS Arizona analogy hits it right on the head.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 8/09/2005 06:52:00 PM | link


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