Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Like John Paul II before him...

Benedict XVI knows how to pope.

I'd be thrilled if, unlike his beloved predecessor, Pope Benedict vowed to travel nowhere and just write encyclicals for the next decade.

"The least-travelled pope in history" has a charming ring to it. The Holy See would save on jet fuel and entourage airline tickets, and just funnel all related travel cash into resolving American Catholic lawsuits -- then all of us could feast our eyes, minds, and hearts upon a world-class exposition of Christian teaching.

I like it.

When parody is redundant

Thank George Orwell for the eponymous adjective.

They should call it the Scott Peterson Award For Spousal Devotion.

Next up: an ethics conference will posthumously give Herod the Bethlehem Child Care Award.

New Altantis, Louisiana

The media saturation of Hurricane Katrina has now equalled the water saturation of New Orleans. The devastation and horror is too much to take in. The mind numbs. We learn hourly how the latest disaster domino has toppled into three more, with each of these creating new layers of torment.

When manmade levees separating a city from the endless sea begin to crack open, the result is nothing less than pulverizing. Even if they manage staunch the leaks this second, you still have a sprawling urban center flooded beyond description, perhaps beyond final repair. The sea surge, high winds and the quiet levee tsunami are bringing a host of terrors not anticipated: snakes are coming above ground in great numbers (as they do with heavy Southern rains); the local aquarium has given up its sharks, which roam the submerged streets competing for prey, one imagines, with the local alligators; a new influx of parasitic and disease-bearing mosquitos will descend; and corpses are disgorged from swollen cemetery grounds and above-ground mausolea.

For those still stuck in the massive toxic soup that used to be New Orleans, the water supply is not potable and may not be for months. There is no electricity, no frozen food, no way to cook. Grinning demons vaguely resembling human beings still loot abandoned stores, with TV crews only passively filming them, perhaps too exhausted to thwart their crimes. Hospitals totter on the verge of generator failure. One woman gave birth while fleeing the city.

We read about the stranded in the Superdome, but not why they're there. It's because they were too poor or otherwise unable to evacuate in time, or because they were infirm, homeless, or elderly. Imagine two days of hunger and thirst and two pitch black fright nights. All in all, the most fragile human beings got it the worst. Is a suicide beneath that smothering canopy terribly out of place? Transporting tens of thousands of sick and bewildered survivors to Houston will be a Herculean task.

As of this writing, no one in the New Atlantis can watch TV to catch their bearings. Most cell phones are dead, their providers' cell systems fried through overuse.

All this seems so strong and prayer so weak. But pray we must, for God says that His power is somehow at full strength in weakness.

And as stories of heroism pour in, and they will, I'll post on them, too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Religion Coverage Sucks watch

When newspaper editors hire sports writers to cover games, or political writers to cover campaigns, or food writers to cover restaurants, readers have a reasonable expectation that the scribes know their stuff. The reasons for this are obvious.

But when it comes to religion, the expertise deficit is often scandalous.

To whit, here is piece from The Observer (UK) on a proposed Vatican document aimed at screening out homosexual seminarians. It's not terrible, but not only do we get the usual whiff of liberal bias, it showcases an almost amusing set of presuppositions:

It been suggested Rome would publish the instruction earlier this month, but it dropped the plan out of concern that such a move might tarnish his visit to his home city of Cologne last week.

Sure, Pope Benedict XVI is mightlily concerned over "image tarnation." As we know, the man is frightened of controversy and opposition.

Currently, as all priests take a vow of celibacy, their sexual orientation has not been considered a pressing concern.

Don't you love journo-speak? "Not been considered a pressing concern" for whom -- beyond the reporter and his editor?

Vatican-watchers believe the Pope harbours doubts about whether the church should publish the document, which has already been the subject of three drafts.

Three whole drafts? Don't many freshman history papers undergo at least two drafts? I heard somewhere that the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes had a dozen drafts rejected.

The instruction tries to dampen down the controversy by eschewing a moral line, arguing instead that the presence of homosexuals in seminaries is 'unfair' to both gay and heterosexual priests by subjecting the former to temptation.

How does the reporter know what the Instruction "tries to do" this if it's still under editorial wraps at the Holy See? Besides -- show of hands -- who really thinks that the Church's reason for screening out gay seminarians is so they won't be tempted by fellow seminarians?

'It will be written in a very pastoral mode,' Haldane said. 'It will not be an attack on the gay lifestyle. It will not say "homosexuality is immoral". But it will suggest that admitting gay men into the priesthood places a burden both on those who are homosexual and those they are working alongside who are not.'

What? A directive on homosexuality not written in a "very pastoral mode?" Does Prof. Haldane think such a thing even possible? He has everything exactly backward. The key issue is not the burden placed on the men, its the one place on the priesthood itself. And why not say that homosexuality is immoral? The Catechism does, at least with respect to behavior, as does every CDF document that has ever addresssed the problem. Isn't the moral dimension the very deal-breaker we're talking about?

Studies show that a significant proportion of men who enter seminaries to train for the priesthood are gay. Any move signalling that homosexuals will not be allowed to join the seminaries, even one couched in the arcane language of the Vatican, could reduce the number of recruits to the priesthood.

But the opposite is just as likely to be true. If what "studies show" about the "significant proportion" statistic is accurate -- and the number of gay men in the seminaries drops -- then a case can be made that non-gay men interested in entering will then enter precisely because the "lavender factor" has been addressed.

The Vatican has been carefully trying to soften Benedict's image since he was elected earlier this year.

Breathtaking. As if the Holy Father, or his close advisers, abide the Raj Mahoney PR model. How about the simple fact that Benedict himself, whenever he's in front of a camera, exudes a very natural sense of human kindness and humility?

In recent weeks he has reached out to the Jewish and Muslim communities as well as young Catholics during the church's World Youth Day. The initiatives have been seen as a significant PR success.

Again, "have been seen" as such by whom? The conclusion we're invited to draw here is that the Pope has had to scramble to find ways of appearing tolerant and inclusive in the face of low poll numbers or a drop in stock value.

A decision to publish an instruction that would underscore his religious conservatism would be detrimental to Benedict's standing as he enjoys his 'honeymoon period' on the world stage.

Heavy sigh.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Meme comes full circle

This was inevitable. Cindy Sheehan meets the real president, then the fake one. You tell me she's not being used by the Left.

I was listening to a clip this morning of her appearance on Bill Maher's show. Am I the only one excessively irritated by that thin, reedy voice and emotionally flat affect? I would think a good psychiatrist could tell you a lot about the poor woman's repressed grief. Maher's first question: "So how are you doing?" Mrs. Sheehan's reply: "Great. I'm doing great."

Your son died in combat a matter of months ago; your husband divorces you a matter of weeks ago; your mother suffers a stroke a matter of days ago.

And you're doing great.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Our Muslim presupposition

There is a widely shared complaint out there that moderate Muslims should condemn terrorism done in the name of Islam. The complaint has more or less upgraded itself into a mantra among conservatives.

But since when is moderation a good thing in religion? Compare this to Judaism or Christianity. Didn't God say He'd spit forth the lukewarm from His mouth? Didn't Jesus wish the world was on already fire with His message? It's zeal and commitment that God rewards.

Our complaint about Islam therefore introduces an unresolvable dilemma: we don't want to say Islam itself is a terrorist organization (per radio host Michael Graham) so instead we say that we want "moderate" (i.e. lukewarm or liberal-minded) Muslims to reform Islam, and to condemn terrorist acts done in its name.

But, at least in every other religion, a "moderate" is either a liberal or a lapsed disciple. In other words, someone who no longer acts according to what his faith teaches. I'd like a Muslim to correct me here, but it seems that the more a person immerses hmself in Islam and takes it on its own original terms -- whether Sunni or Shia or any other legimated form of Islam -- the more likely he'll be to endorse violent jihad.

One element that is carefully avoided in the discourse is the question of whether Islam is a false religion. It's the one unaskable question. I suspect I know why. People are afraid of a violent, retributive reaction. Which may help explain why President Bush feels the political need to overcompensate by referring repeatedly to Islam as a "religion of peace."

The presupposition we make is that Islam is one monolithic thing, with a single set of tenets overseen by something like a hierarchy that distinguishes between fake and authentic versions of Islam. None of this is so. Defining Islam singly is like trying to pin down a puddle of mercury. We ought to consider the problem as it is: The entire Muslim world is not governed by any individual imam or sheik, and therefore we can't expect any authoritative rejection of Muslim-inspired terrorism.

That leaves us with the thesis of these two men.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cindy Sheehan successfully jumps shark

If Cindy Sheehan, Official Patriotic Grieving Mom(TM), really believes that our enemies in Iraq (those armed few who start each day wondering how best to kill US and Iraqi soliders) are "freedom fighters," then shouldn't she be kinda glad that her son Casey was vanquished in the great struggle for freedom?

At first I though she was the only one confused here.

How to get hired: The Michael Graham protocol

Drudge is reporting that KFI-640, the mega-talk station here in LA, has extended a job offer to Washington-based host Michael Graham, who was handed his arse on a platter this week by ABC Radio for making "insensitive remarks" about Islam. God bless America.

Free speech is not dead yet, but may soon need a respirator and a bed pan.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bishop spine watch

It's a beautiful sight to behold...

The union of bishop and backbone. Catholics in La Crosse, WI, seem to have gotten a nice gift from Benedict XVI: a shepherd in the grand Raymond Burke tradition.

The name Jerome is a pretty sweet omen to boot.

Could sex have anything to do with it?

I'm just asking. The educational experts over at this high school in Canton, OH, blame the catastrophically high pregnancy rate on everything...except that which causes pregnancy.

Out of 490 females, 65 are pregnant. (Not a typo.) Yeah, it's probably just due to video games and movies, stuff like that.

Monday, August 22, 2005

If I were dictator, cont'd

If I were dictator, here are some of the things I would outlaw immediately (feel free to chime in with your own verbotens):

* When you disagree with someone, you have to say "I disagree" or similar words, in all charity and politeness, of course. You are not permitted to say, "I hear you," out of fear of appearing rigid, narrow-minded and dogmatic.

* It is no longer permitted to say, "is all," at the end of sentences. So: "I was just waiting for my friend Bob, that's all."

* News stories are no longer permitted to pretend to neutrality or objectivity. Stories critical of the government or the Church will remain perfectly legal and protected, of course, but you can't write a news story about Pope Benedict XVI and then stick on a snotty reference at the end about"his ban on birth control" or "his rigid reputation" as the "Enforcer/Rottweiler/Panzer Kardinal" or "Vatican crackdown," etc. In other words, hating the guts of a public figure or institution representing conservative values is fine; faking that you don't is not.

* Note to Bill O'Reilly: No more triumphantly proclaiming "what Jesus would do." Jesus is God. We don't know what He would do. The claim is usually made to justify a liberal or permissive course of action. (The WWJD fad is very well-meant, but kind of misleading. I know I've just flayed a sacred cow alive.)

How to get fired: The Michael Graham protocol

In case you're wondering, here is the Michael Graham text that earned him the Golden Boot Award from his craven bosses at ABC. (Not sure about the "rationalism and tolerance" part of medieval Islam, but....)

Bash Catholicism, get promoted; bash Islam, get the boot

Popular talk radio host Michael Graham inadvertently illustrated the domineering nature of Islam when he dared speak plainly about the troubling inspiration it often provides terrorism and terrorists.

One would have expected Graham's trenchant observations to cause CAIR (the Council of American Islamic Relations) to jump up with the standard complaints, to ignite irate callers (and warmly supportive callers), and generally contribute to the ongoing cultural conversation on this fractious issue.

What does FIRING Michael Graham do besides give us all a taste of the repression of free speech that exists in Islamic countries?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Whimper dresses up as bang

The macabre adulation accorded Hunter S. Thompson's suicide continues. Like the musical appeal of The Doors and The Rolling Stones, the literary appeal of Mr. Thompson's rambling odes to nihilism escapes me.

Someone please tell me to whom he's supposed to be a role model.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

March of the Penguins is a serious art movie

So why was this arrogant troublemaker ruining it for everyone else?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pope kind of dumb, says Yahoo News

Yahoo News continues its tradition of unsubtle digs at persons and institutions its editors don't like. This item relates a small moment that illustrates the charm and self-deprecating humor of Pope Benedict XVI. Nice headline choice.

Count on the neutral, objective people over at Yahoo News to find the cloud in the silver lining.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ultra-far right watch

Radical extremist John Roberts once wrote that gravity hauls things downward.


"It is a huge opportunity in secular terms"

Where the mean, narrow-minded Catholic staff at Winchester Cathedral refused to let 200 sound and light technicians, caterers, actors and production assistants disrupt worship for five days, the compassionate, artistically savvy Anglican dean of England's Lincoln Cathedral relented and let Ron Howard's crew film part of The Da Vinci Code.

Amazing what miracles can be got from a juicy studio church donation. The upside would seem to be that the building is at least being used for something.

I am shocked, shocked, to find Anglicans complicit in undermining historic Christianity.

Monday, August 15, 2005

If I were dictator

If I were dictator (benevolent, of course) I would immediately outlaw the following bad things:

* Russian characters in movies would no longer be allowed to say the word "situation" in a thick Russian accent ("Seet-uAY-shun"). And can they please drink something other than vodka?

* If a movie scene takes place in France, you're not allowed to show an extra walk past with a long French bagette hanging out of their shopping bag. And enough with the tams. It's France; we get it.

* Sorry, but in action movies, the hero is no longer allowed to say, "I'm going in!" Even if he is going in somewhere.

* Movie scores, especially in romantic comedies, are no longer allowed to insert songs with lyrics that explain every last detail of what's happening between the characters during those bittersweet sequences when no one is talking. I hate that. Just tell the story, Herr Direktor. We're already holding our date's hand, we don't need you to hold it, too.

* In battle sequences, it's impermissible to show two huge groups of soldiers running angrily toward each other, then slamming chaotically into the opposing army. The standard for mega-battle sequences was set in Spartacus 40 years ago. But since then, Braveheart, Troy, Alexander, The Scorpion King and its B-movie imitators, The Patriot, all three Lords of the Ring, Gladiator, The Kingdom of Heaven, etc. have created a big fat cliche out of it. And no more shots of a zillion arrows whistling overhead, m'kay?

* When a character is very angry, or is threatening someone with a gun, he or she may not use the allegedly edgy, hip epithet, "sick f**k." Yawn.

* Movie main characters must immediately cease and desist sounding 10 times more poetic and profound than does the average person when speaking.

* During Mass, the celebrant is not allowed any references to professional sports during his introductory remarks or before the final blessing. Sorry, Father, but "Go Dodgers" is jarring, and the ensuing congregational chuckle doesn't really belong in the Mass.

* Liberals must now find a different word than "inappropriate." It's the law.

* No more invoking Hitler or the Nazi regime in an argument, unless the argument is about World War II.

* If you're disagreeing with someone, you may not begin a sentence with, "studies show" or "if you look at the statistics." We all know you're just grabbing at thin air.

* Unless your opponent actually hates Jews, the term anti-Semitic is no longer available for usage by the public. Also, unless your opponent actually hates Catholics, same goes for the term "anti-Catholic."

* Unless your opponent is actually afraid of homosexuals, he must not be called homophobic.

* Come to think of it, the word homophobic, too, must be replaced since it means "fear of things that are similar."

* The open-minded-sounding dualism "I'm spiritual but not religious" has GOT to go.

* Just so you know, the word is "regardless," not irregardless.

* Any allusions to the Crusades and the Inquisition(s) must be preceded by in-depth study of both historical phenomena.

* Any knee-jerk references to Islam being a religion of peace must first account for, and persuasively defend, the pro-violence passages in the Qu'ran and the blood-drenched history of the spread of Islam.

* The term "pedophile priest" is a thing of the past, since 999 abuse cases out of 1000 have involved gay priests with a penchant for adolescent boys and young men, not for children per se.

* No more bishop bashing if you're not prepared to pray fervently for the object of your bash for one month.

I'll be posting more as they arise. Venting pet peeves is fun, no? I'd like to hear from my loyal but heretofore silent Seize the Dei readers. What would you abolish if you became dictator?

Abortion pill also kills mommy

Wouldn't you know it? If you take a pill loaded with deadly chemicals designed to kill your baby, it might end up working all too effectively, as some California women seem to have learned the hard way.

They should call it UR DeadYet.

Friday, August 12, 2005

More guns less crime

That's the title of a book by Yale professor John Lott. As a Canadian, it's practically in my genetic hardwiring to recoil from all that Yankee Second Amendment "cowboy yahoo" stuff. By definition, someone like Professor Lott is public heretic number one, and you don't even have to read his book. It has to be wrong -- it's American!

But then, no one in Canada is ever praised for questioning the rationale behind its gun control laws, let alone their value.

To whit, innocent citizens of my hometown of Halifax are becoming easy targets for swarming gangs of teens, some of whom carry guns. Show of hands -- who thinks the number of sickening attacks like this would drop if the bad guys understood that their victims might just shoot back? When the evil have weapons and will use them, the good should have the right to reasonable self-defense, no?

In Canada, the answer is no. In fact, you might not believe this one, but even if a bunch of hoodlums break into your house, and you repulse them with a knife, you could wind up in jail.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The fragrance purple

This is cool.

Talk about a tantalizing mystery. I wonder what Aquinas would say.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Mick Jagger song really about Harvey the rabbit

Mick Jagger is the top contender for the Chris Martin Award for Dumb Ass Rocker.

Give the aging king of spandex credit for nerve. He tells Extra TV that the song, "My Sweet Neocon" off their upcoming album is not anti-Bush. Sorry to inflict senseless bordeom on readers who never did me any harm, but here's a sample:

"You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/You call yourself a patriot, well I think you're full of shit."

"How come you're so wrong? My sweet neo-con, where's the money gone, in the Pentagon."

"It's liberty for all, democracy's our style, unless you are against us, then it's prison without trial."

Forget the winking denial that it refers to Bush. More importantly, can you imagine any rock star releasing the song if "Christian" were changed to "Jew" or "Muslim"? And isn't the term neocon so very "three years ago"?

This is the world's best rock act?

My homo and native land

The new "gay" "marriage" "law" in Canada is bringing with it some humorous flotsam and jetsam. Like the two straight guys who want to tie the knot -- purely for the financial benefits.

Sometimes you have to fight ridiculous with ridiculous.

What's extra funny is the huffy response from the gay spokeshole. And I thought being judgmental was the only mortal sin...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Pregnancy = dread disease

You can have an abortion, do drugs like it's 1969, fornicate until dawn, or writhe onstage in front of 11-year-olds wearing only a few postage stamps, but if you find yourself in a delicate condition, don't expect a card from "Dirrty" entertainer Christina Aguilara.

You see, Britney has let herself go.

I can't bear it. Can we have a moment of silence for this tragedy?

Biblical accuracy watch

So they (accidentally) unearthed the Pool of Siloam. Drudge announced this today but the story link to The Jerusalem Post story is over a year old.

What interests me is the logic of skepticism when it comes to biblical artifacts and locations. The standard liberal theological approach is to assume that the things recorded in the Bible are purely metaphorical, or "theological conceits" that serve to "teach religious ideas." You read a lot of this gunk when it comes to John's Gospel, the innerleckshul term for which is "the Fourth Gospel" since, as far as we know, Henny Youngman might have written it.

But then when the item is actually found to exist exactly as the Bible puts it, the skeptics want to move on: "Yeah, but these other things just can't be historically accurate." Also doing business as an anti-supernatural bias.

I think its because people today mistake the literal sense of Scripture with fundamentalism -- theology's F word.

Next thing you know, someone's going to unearth Adam's navel lint. Then they'll have to consult this to see whether the find is bogus.

The Discovery is, like, loud as hell

And that's with the engines shut off.

Early this morning around 5:15 AM, the Coffin home was rocked to the foundations by what sounded like the head-on collision of two speeding trains. At first I thought it was The Big One -- the first reaction of earthquake-haunted Los Angeles residents to any sound louder than a car accident -- but it was too sharp, too thunderous. The blinds shook, the bed seemed to convulse, and car alarms went off everywhere. Then utter silence.

The Discovery had landed.

She came in very low over Southern California, stealthlike, her speed considerably down from the Mach 20 of high orbit. (Think about how fast that is: 20 times the speed of sound.) But over our house it was Mach something. I grew up enjoying air shows so I know what a sonic boom sounds like.

This was the angry Godzilla of sonic booms. Cool in a macabre kind of way.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Porous border alert

While I generally support President Bush, he's all wet on the illegal alien issue. Do we have to wait for mushroom cloud over San Diego, Los Angeles or San Francisco before the insanity of extending amnesty to criminals will stop? Even then, I'm afraid, some liberals would still equate illegals with "the noble stranger" Jesus would bid us to serve. I wish I was kidding.

This is Exhibit A of that insanity. If the 9-11 terrorists could learn how to steer a 757, wouldn't moving to Tijuana and learning a little Spanish be a cinch? And now US banks have started to aid and abet potential enemies. Nice.

Score after second quarter: Mammon 1, National Security 0.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Thank God for sub rescue

The dramatic rescue of the Russian Priz submarine by the British means a) the Russian Navy still sucks; and b) they seem to have learned from the homocidal hubris that led to the deaths of 118 sailors on the sunken Kursk sub in 2000.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The End is nigh

When this movie goes number at the one box office, you know the end of civilization as we know it is not far off.

I think the Bible prophesies a duke, or a hazard (something like that) appearing before The End.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Spinning John Roberts

He is a dangerous, far right fanatic who will turn the clock back to the dreaded Fifties.

No, wait a sec. Let's see: He wore dandy plaid clothes in the Seventies (check); he stayed a bachelor for quite a while (check); he didn't sire his own kids (check). Has to be...could it be....might it be...he's gay?!

Change that. He's a tolerant, compassionate angel from heaven.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

NASA Freudian slip?

NASA admitted it did not know if the protruding strips were a danger to the shuttle, but after 2 1/2 years of work and $1 billion spent on safety upgrades since the Columbia disaster, the agency was taking no chances it could lose another shuttle to heat damage.

Am I overanalyzing here, or does NASA appear to care first about lost manhours (and cashola), and lost human beings second? I know "another shuttle" stands here for the entire mission, crew included -- and I realize the crew chooses to accept the mission -- but the phraseology attributed to NASA seems to indicate an ongoing willingness to keep sending up people in rickety white death boxes that can't endure being grazed by some foam.

And no one has told me what on earth (sic) the shuttle missions actually accomplish besides the occasional human fireworks.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Another baseball "great" for kids to emulate

But mommy, the cookie jar fell over! Really, I must have breathed in some chocolate chip vapor, and some of it got stuck on my lips. I didn't intentionally eat any cookies.

I swear.

Many were rivetted by Orioles hitter Rafael Palmeiri's breathless testimony before a congressional committee in March:

"I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period. Why would I do this in a year when I went in front of Congress and I testified and I told the truth?" Palmeiro said Monday. "Why should I do this during a season where I was going to get to 3,000 hits? It just makes no sense. I would not put my career on the line. I would not put my reputation on the line, everything that I've accomplished throughout my career. I would not do that. I'm not a crazy person."

No, Rafael, not crazy. Just a sinner. Just someone seduced by adulatory press clippings and the desire to attain immortality in the sports pantheon -- in other words, precisely because he wanted to ensure 3000 hits this season, suspecting there may not be a next season. Take a number and join the line.

But enough already with the dumb ass excuses.