Friday, June 02, 2006

David Limbaugh argues that Howard Dean's latest reach out to evangelicals is pointless...I agree!


Howard Dean's fruitless outreach

By David Limbaugh

Jun 2, 2006

At least Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean is colorful; you've got to give him that much. But he's not the guy to be leading the charge to reunite the Democratic Party with so-called "values voters."

The Washington Times' Greg Pierce reports that Dean was outraged when he heard that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist intended to call to a vote a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Dean called opponents of homosexual marriage "bigots." He said, "At a time when the Republican Party is in trouble with their conservative base, Bill Frist is taking a page straight out of the Karl Rove playbook to distract from the Republican Party's failed leadership and misplaced priorities by scapegoating LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) families for political gain, using marriage as a wedge issue." It's not only morally wrong, it is shameful and reprehensible," said the enlightened Dean.

Now flashback a week or so and picture Dean on the set of the evil bigot Pat Robertson's "700 Club." Dean appeared as part of his effort to reclaim "values voters" for the Democratic Party. On that program Dean reportedly said the party's platform provides that "marriage is between a man and a woman." Later, Dean had to apologize to gay rights leaders for incorrectly stating the party's platform position.

Surely I'm misreading one of these two reports. Which is it, Howard? Or, perhaps I should say, "Which face will you be wearing today: the bigoted or the enlightened one?"

Regardless of what the party's official position on gay marriage is, these two side-by-side incidents reveal the Democratic Party's predicament with "values voters." It appears they can't live with 'em and can't without 'em.

Democrats have been wrestling with this issue for some time now, realizing that Christian conservatives constitute a substantial part of the Republican voter base.

The Democrats' problem connecting with "values voters" was reinforced when 2004 exit polling data, along with other concurrent polling, showed that Democrats not only have difficulty connecting with evangelical Christians, but orthodox practitioners of most religions.

They do just fine with avowed secularists, agnostics and atheists, but not with those who attend church or other religious services more regularly. A Pew Research Center poll showed that President Bush beat Kerry 64 percent to 35 percent among voters who attend church more than once a week and 58 percent to 41 percent among those who attend once a week. Those who attend just a few times a year favored Kerry 54 percent to 45 percent. But those who never attend favor Kerry 62 percent to 36 percent.

A later Pew survey had even worse news for Democrats. It revealed that only 29 percent of the respondents believed the Democratic Party is generally friendly toward religion (down from 40 percent in 2004), and 44 percent believed secular liberals have too much influence on the Democratic Party. It also showed that people believed, by a margin of 51 percent to 28 percent, that Republicans were more concerned with protecting religious values.

Apparently all that scripture John Kerry recited during the presidential campaign didn't work. Nor did Howard Dean's protestations that true evangelicals believe the government ought to radically redistribute wealth.

Nor did Reverend Jim Wallis's book, "God's Politics," in which he advised Democrats to recast their positions on issues to make them more appealing to "values voters."

Even the multiple seminars and retreats the Democrats have had to address their waning appeal to values voters have had little impact.

Perhaps sooner or later the Democratic Party will realize that their problem with "values voters" is not that they have failed to clearly articulate their message on values issues. It is that they have succeeded in communicating their positions, loudly and clearly, despite their efforts to obfuscate near election time.

The problem isn't that conservative Christians -- generally speaking -- don't understand where the left is coming from; it's that they do. They have expressed open contempt for certain traditional values, even though many Democrats are Christians, too.

It's not that Democrats don't have values voters, too. But those voters are -- generally speaking again -- motivated largely by a different set of values.

The Democrats' outreach to values voters isn't an appeal to voters who share their values -- they are already firmly in the Democratic base. It's a cynical ploy to semantically repackage their positions in terms designed to fool churchgoers (see the Pew Poll) into believing they are in their corner -- politically speaking.

Too bad these reputedly "poor, uneducated and easy to command" conservative Christians aren't so easy to command.

David Limbaugh is a syndicated columnist who blogs at DavidLimbaugh.com. He is also the author of Persecution and Absolute Power: The Legacy of Corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department.

We need to ask ourselves whether marriage matters or not...

That's what Mike Gallagher, from Fox News and Townhall.com, says in his latest article....

Face it: Marriage is in trouble

By Mike Gallagher

Jun 2, 2006

The NBC-TV reporter had a huge smile on his face while asking the “newlyweds” about their lives together. “Who gets up earlier?” he said. The young “groom” grinned and said, “Oh, I do.” The “bride” giggled and blushed. Just a warm, fuzzy interview on NBC’s “Dateline” about a nice, young married couple, right?

Wrong. This is no ordinary couple. This was an interview with Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau, the notorious ex-schoolteacher and her young “husband”, the boy she raped when she was his grade school teacher and he was 13 years old.

It has been positively mind-boggling to observe the fawning by the national news media over the one year “wedding anniversary” of these two pitiful people. Last week, the beaming couple was on the cover of People Magazine. In addition to the “Dateline” segment, they appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” with Matt Lauer slobbering all over them. Their sordid story has been featured in newspapers all over America this week.

But rather than telling the sick tale of a child predator who wound up pregnant by her victim, the media seems positively enamored by the relationship these two have, now that they’ve been officially married for a year. Instead of asking Letourneau probing questions about why she engaged in such sick, depraved behavior, they want to know if the couple argues very much. Rather than ask the young man about what it’s like to be the victim of a sexual predator, reporters and broadcasters ask him things like what it’s like to be famous, if he’s recognized when he goes to the grocery store.

Once again, the American media wallows in a moral cesspool and tries to glamorize a degenerate.

If it weren’t so tragic, it would actually be a bit comical to consider the double standard involved here. If a 40 year old man raped a 13 year old girl and she became pregnant and they ended up married, it’s not likely they’d be featured on “Dateline” or on the cover of People Magazine. In fact, if a man sexually molested a 13 year old boy, I doubt that reporters would be clamoring to cover the story 8 years later if the boy moved in with the man.

Calling the relationship between Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau a marriage is a slap in the face to just about every single man and woman who ever made the lifelong commitment to love, honor and obey one another.

It seems pretty obvious to me that marriage is under siege. Not only are Americans divorcing in record numbers, but activists are determined to undermine the very definition of marriage as the covenant between one man and one woman.

Next week, the U.S. Senate will vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment. It will be a fairly simple decision. The Senate will decide whether marriage is important enough to declare that marriage in America is between one man and one woman and literally say so in our Constitution.

I’m trying to remain optimistic. Our government has a rare opportunity to show the world that our country understands that marriage is truly a foundational way of life for us. We have always considered marriage as being exclusive to one man and one woman. And yet, considering the way the Senate has misfired over the issue of illegal immigration, I’m afraid that it might lack the backbone to do the right thing on marriage, too.

This is an event that desperately needs the voice of the people. If an average American has never called his or her U.S. Senator’s office, yet feels strongly that marriage between one man and one woman needs to be preserved, now is the time to make that call. This doesn’t have to be a partisan effort. I know Democrats who are in favor of the Marriage Amendment and Republicans who are uncomfortable with it.

Ultimately, we’ll need to decide together, as Americans, whether marriage matters.

Sadly, some will consider this position to be a “homophobic” one, an ugly attempt to discriminate against gays and lesbians who want to get married. But that’s just not true. This isn’t “anti-gay”, it’s “pro-marriage.” I hold a majority belief that marriage in our country should be exclusive to one man and one woman. If we don’t officially declare marriage to be this way, there really is no stopping the possibilities.

When Senator Rick Santorum suggested that marriage could be diminished into all kinds of different permutations if we don’t preserve it, he was right. If we call the union between two men or two women a marriage, what stops the bigamist from taking four wives?

If marriage doesn’t mean what we know it to mean, let’s face it: anything goes. Failing to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment might lead to the proverbial slippery slope.

Many would argue that we’re already there.

Make that call.

Mike Gallagher is a contributing editor at Townhall.com, a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, and a contributor and guest host on the Fox News Channel. Gallagher's website is MikeOnline.com

Dirk drops 50 on the Suns



If were to become a monk, I'd want to be a monk here...

Wine-tasting and retreats at California monastery

VINA, California (AP) -- In a Northern California monastery, 25 monks following the teachings of St. Benedict rise hours before dawn to pray, work the land and make a serious syrah -- a full-bodied red wine.

The men at the Abbey of New Clairvaux have opened the first Roman Catholic Cistercian winery in North America, though their vineyard has a storied place in California's wine history.

The 580-acre spread in this tiny town north of Chico was once owned by Leland Stanford -- the railroad magnate, California governor and university founder -- who ran what was considered the world's largest winery in the late 1800s, said Aimee Sunseri, a fifth-generation winemaker hired to help the monks start the winery.

The brothers' vineyards are more modest, but they hope wine sales will boost the monastery, where recruitment to the order has been hard and the monks must dig up ways to make cash.

"We need to work to keep going, but we don't want or expect to get rich. But the wine has done well -- better than expected," said Father Harold Meyer, who has been at the abbey for 33 years.

While their quarters are kept private, they've opened the monastery to the public for three- and four-day retreats, tours and weekend wine-tasting.

The grounds are quiet most of the day except for the splashing of koi fish in a small fountain and the abbot speeding by in a golf cart. At 7:35 p.m., the monks say their last prayer before the "grand silence," which lasts until morning prayers at 3:30 a.m. the next day.

Then, it's time for work.

"There's a sacredness about working with grapes," Meyer said. "Wine is very special."

The monastery's property is bordered on one side by the Sacramento River. Century-old walnut trees create canopies over the retreat facilities, including a modest library, a small dining hall and a store offering the wares of other monasteries and religious books.

Most of the fields and simple buildings are named, but not all carry religious monikers. Guest rooms for visitors taking retreats at the abbey are labeled by virtue: Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Peace.

The rooms are austere, with a twin bed and desk. Each room has a private, modern bathroom.

Guests are asked to observe silence at night but there are no religious requirements and no schedule to the stay. Guests are welcome to attend prayer services in the monastery's small church or worship as they wish in a quiet room.

Retreats are booked months in advance and the stays are donation-based.

Some of the brothers are more outgoing than others, happy to talk to visitors. Others prefer solitude, meals alone and a day spent tinkering with farm equipment or making pottery.

"We get a lot of city people. We're intriguing, I guess," Meyer said, laughing.

The men follow the Roman Catholic teachings of St. Benedict, which advocate private and communal prayer and self-support through manual labor.

Trappist monks in Massachusetts sell jam and preserves, Benedictines in New Mexico brewed up plans to make beer and Cistercians have made wine in France and Germany for centuries.

Before settling on wine grapes, the Sacramento Valley monks dabbled with dairy, made a go at walnuts, then tried prunes and organic vegetables.

They now grow 10 varieties of grapes chosen specifically for the region's soil and climate, including petite sirah, tempranillo, graciano, zinfandel, barbera, viognier and muscat blanc.

"The ground here is kind of sandy and rough, which is perfect for growing grapes," Sunseri said.

Perfect for grapes, maybe, but not necessarily for those toiling in the fields. They have named and blessed the two fields: St. James and Poor Souls.

"Anyone that has to work that land is a poor soul," said Rafael Flores, one of the brothers.

The monks expect to make about 19,200 bottles of wine this year, twice as many as their first batch in 2002, Sunseri said.

That year, the monks harvested the first wine grapes at the Vina property since the close of the Stanford Winery in 1815, she said. Stanford's vineyards were torn out in the early 1900s and then prohibition kicked in. The land was eventually parceled off and sold in pieces.

The monastery moved here from Kentucky 51 years ago, building a church, a dining hall and residences. They are currently rebuilding part of an 800-year-old Spanish monastery William Randolph Hearst bought in the 1930s, dismantled and shipped to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, where it was never reassembled.

The Abbey of New Clairvaux still uses Stanford's 100-year-old brick wine cellar to produce, age and bottle their wines.

"People will come at first because we're monks, but we want them to come back because this is a good place and we have quality goods to offer," Meyer said.

Does it really matter what a women chooses to wear?

Of course it does! Here is a great article from Edward Sri about the importance of returning to modesty. Here's the beginning of the article.

To Inspire Love: A Return to Modesty

In our post-sexual-revolution world, skimpy dresses, mini-skirts, tiny bikinis, low -rise pants, and low-cut shirts have become part of the mainstream attire for women today. And anyone who might raise questions about the appropriateness of such dress is viewed as “rigid,” “old fashioned,” or “out of touch” with modern style. Modesty is no longer a part of our culture’s vocabulary. Though most people sense they wouldn’t want their own daughters dressing like Madonna and Britney Spears, few have the courage to bring up the topic of modesty, and even fewer know what to say if they did.

John Paul II — then Karol Wojtyla — in his book Love and Responsibility, offers much needed wisdom on the nature of modesty and how dressing modestly is crucial for strengthening our relationships with the opposite sex.

The Experience of Shame

Wojtyla begins his treatment on modesty with an explanation of a common human experience: shame. Shame involves a tendency to conceal something — not just bad things, such as sins, weaknesses, and embarrassing m oments, but also good things that we desire to keep from coming out in the open. For example, someone who performs a good deed may prefer that his action go unnoticed. If he is complemented publicly, he may feel embarrassed, not because he did something bad, but because he did not want to draw attention to his deed. Similarly, a student who receives high marks on an exam may feel embarrassed when the teacher praises her in front of the whole class, since she wished to share her good grade only with her closest friends and famil y. There are many good things that we wish to keep hidden from public eyes, and we feel shame if they are brought out into the open.

This helps us understand one of the most powerful experiences of shame: sexual shame. Why do human persons tend to conceal body parts associated with sexuality? Why do men and women instinctively cover themselves quickly if someone of the opposite sex accidentally walks in on them while they are changing their clothes or going to the bathroom? Wojtyla explains that this tendency to conceal those parts of the body that make it male or female is itself not the essence of shame, but a manifestation of a deeper tendency to conceal the sexual values themselves, “particularly in so far as they constitute in the mind of a particular person ‘a potential object of enjoyment’ for persons of the other sex” (p. 176).

For example, a woman may instinctively sense that if certain parts of her body are exposed, a man might view her merely for her sexual values as an object of pleasure. Indeed, those particular parts of her body reveal her sexual values so powerfully that a man can be drawn primarily not to her true value as a person, but to her sexual values which give him sensual pleasure in his glances and imagination.

That is why we tend to veil the sexual values connected with particular parts of the body — not because they are bad, but because they can overshadow the greater value of the person. Wojtyla thus says sexual shame is “a natural form of self-defense for the person” (p. 182). It helps prevent the person from being treated as an object of enjoyment. Thus, the concealing of sexual values through modesty of dress is meant to provide the arena in which something much more than a mere se nsual reaction might take place. Modesty of dress helps protect interactions between the sexes from falling into utilitarianism, and thus creates the possibility of authentic love for the per son to develop.

Catholic Matters from Fr. Neuhaus

Recently, I've been reading Fr. Neuhaus' "Catholic Matters"...it is so well written and so well thought out...I have to recommend it to anyone. Below is a blurb from Chapter 5 (thanks to CERC).



Anyone thinking about becoming Catholic is forewarned. Must reading is a little book by Thomas Day, a modern classic, Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste. It is both comic and sad. Cradle Catholics read it laughing through their tears. Converts brace themselves. Day sends up chatty priests who emcee the Mass as though it were their own live talk show, song leaders who challenge anyone else to sing, and happy-clappy ditties that might embarrass preschoolers. There is, to cite but one of hundreds, "To Be Alive":

To be alive and feeling free
And to have everyone in your family
To be alive in every way
Oh how great it is
To be alive.

Be forewarned. "Convert stories" have been a major genre in Catholic popular literature. That has been less so in recent years because, as we have seen, some Catholics assume there is a tension, even a contradiction, between ecumenism and conversion. "Why," it is asked, "would you want to become a Catholic when we Catholics have only now learned how wonderful Lutheranism is?" There are compelling theological reasons for becoming Catholic. Not so long ago, convert stories typically stressed the compelling aesthetic attractions of Catholicism. People such as Thomas Merton were drawn to the Church by the beauty, the solemnity, the ceremony, the dignity of the worship. The word commonly used was "mystery."

Merton, writing a long while ago, described the genius of Gregorian chant:

It is an austere warmth, the warmth of Gregorian chant. It is deep beyond ordinary emotion, and that is one reason why you never get tired of it. It never wears you out by making a lot of cheap demands on your sensibilities. Instead of drawing you out into the open field of feelings where your enemies, the devil and your own imagination and the inherent vulgarity of your own corrupted nature, can get at you with their blades and cut you to pieces, it draws you within, where you are lulled in peace and recollection and where you find God.

"Cheap demands on your sensibilities" nicely describes the experience of much contemporary liturgy and music. One now more commonly encounters people who, instead of being attracted by the beauty of it all, entered the Church despite the aesthetic shambles of liturgy and music in many parishes. For the "high church " Lutheran or Episcopalian, contemporary Catholicism can be a liturgical and musical move downmarket, and sometimes way down. When over lunch I told my editor friend Norman Podhoretz, with whom I share musical passions, that I was becoming a Catholic, there was at first a long pause. Then, with a deeply baffled expression, "But, Richard, what about Bach?" What about Bach indeed.

As I say, anyone thinking about becoming Catholic should brace himself by reading Thomas Day's Why Catholics Can't Sing. That having been said, I do believe the silliest of the silly season is past or now passing. And I am impressed by Lutherans and Anglicans who, upon entering into full communion, say they are pleasantly surprised to find that the horror stories of Catholic worship are greatly exaggerated. You can still find, here and there, priests who pin balloons to their vestments, ad lib the words of the Mass as though it were their personal performance, and never rise homiletically above "Have a nice day." There are still the ditties of doggerel set to vapid tunes that would make even Andrew Lloyd Webber wince; ditties that are typically much more about Wonderful, Wonderful Us than about the glory of the Lord. But all that is now passing. Its passing is hastened by the complaints of lay people who go to Mass not to celebrate their wonderful selves but to surrender themselves in the worship of the Mystery who is Christ in his Real Presence. Avery Cardinal Dulles tells of saying Mass in a parish that had a big banner by the altar emblazoned with the message, "God is Other People." He says he very much wished that he had had a magic marker with which to put a big comma after "Other." But that, he notes, was more than twenty years ago.

Stories of liturgical and musical malpractice abound. Where Catholics gather to lament the state of the Church, the game of choice is "Can you top this?" It can be very funny, in a sad sort of way. The malpractice is evident not only in liturgical and musical antics but also in the bare ruined choirs of churches stripped to the austere specifications of "worship spaces " designed to facilitate the community's encounter with itself. Encounter with the Other is a decidedly secondary consideration, if it is considered at all. The tabernacle of the Real Presence is moved either somewhere off to the side or into a closet-sized space down a side corridor, as though to pose a challenge to those really determined to engage in eucharistic adoration. Not for nothing are the church renovations of recent decades sometimes referred to as wreckovations. All this is painfully true, and there will no doubt be cause for legitimate complaint far into the future. However . . .

There is a real and present danger of idealizing the state of liturgy and music prior to the destabilizations following the Council. Today's reformers rightly remind us that the pre-conciliar twenty-minute "quickie Mass" hurriedly mumbled in butchered Latin to get people in and out with minimum delay was not marked by the aesthetic care or reverence that so many say they miss today. The Council called for full, active, and conscious participation by the faithful. "Active" was sometimes interpreted as a mandate for keeping the people busy.

A liturgist recently reported that he observed a Mass with stopwatch in hand and discovered that 80 percent of the time the people were not doing anything. I expect some of them were just praying, or pondering the mystery of what God was doing at and on the altar. After the Council, liturgical experts obsessed with change imposed novelty upon novelty, the result being the radical destabilization of the sacramental and devotional order. But again, that season is passing. Today, the new thing is the recovery of the traditional. It is commonly called "the reform of the reform," and it is making headway, albeit too slowly. Balloons, priests in clown outfits, and the guitar-strumming monotony of "Kumbaya my Lord " are period pieces; they are embarrassingly remembered by aging baby boomers, and utterly baffling to their children and grandchildren.

Then, too, and despite the banality and sentimentality of the English texts that were rushed into use for the New Order Mass (Novus Ordo Missae), it is a rite that can be done, and often is done, with dignity, reverence, and more than a touch of the majesty that befits the worship of God. And, let it be admitted, the banality and the sentimentality chiefly offend those of us who were reared in the elegantly virile liturgical English of The Book of Common Prayer. That was also the language adopted by Lutherans in this country when they switched from their immigrant tongues. After the Council, the general Catholic experience was very different. They went from the linguistic obscurity of the Latin to the linguistic barbarism of the New Order without passing through civilized English. Most Catholics, the former Episcopalian Father Rutler tells me, simply don't know what he is talking about when he says he misses the liturgy in English.

And yet there is this: the attentive reverence of Catholics at the eucharistic prayer, and most notably at the consecration and elevation of the elements. At least that is, with notable exceptions, my experience. It is so intense that you can, so to speak, cut it with a knife. Despite all the chatter about the Mass as a celebration of the wonderful people that we are, there is this almost electric intensity of devotion toward what God is doing, toward the reality that Christ is keeping his promise once again when we "do this" in remembrance of him. Or so I have found it to be in parishes around the country, in corrugated huts in the slums of Mexico City, in the basilicas of Rome, in a bombed-out schoolhouse in Nigeria, in a Polish priory, in a village church of northern Quebec. Such palpable intensity of devotion, such manifest evidence of being caught up into the Mystery, I did not see in all my years as a Lutheran. It is quiet, undemonstratively earnest, a palpable yearning for a gift desired, a sigh of gratitude for a gift received. "It" is happening again. It is the Mass that holds together the maddeningly ragtag and variegated thing that is the Catholic Church. Which is to say it is the Presence. Which is to say it is Christ, doing it again, just as he promised.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Truly remarkable article about the need for men willing to sacrifice

The world needs manly men, especially manly Christian men. Prof. Esolen echos this in an absolutely beautiful article in Touchstone about the need for men who are willing to sacrifice their very selves for something greater than themselves. It is a wonderful article...a must read. Here is a section from it:

The humility of risk is perfected in Christ and is, even when marred or hidden by the swagger, essential to natural manhood. The men of all really thriving cultures know that their lives, if truly lived, are not their own. The samurai was taught to relish each day as one won from death, an unexpected boon: For the moment he swears allegiance to his lord, he must consider his life as already forfeit. Thus, he can lay that life down at a nod, whenever the sacrifice should be required.

Men who went down to the sea in ships, Viking marauders or Nantucket whalers, knew well they might never return, yet they did go; and the man on the mizzen in the midst of a storm knew that his life literally hung by a thread, and that many of his fellows in just his situation never saw land again, but without him and his obedience there could be no voyage beyond the calm of a bay. The crewmen on the Titanic held it as their duty, once the iceberg’s devastation had been reckoned, to assume that their lives were lost. Only so could they tax their muscles and their broken hearts to the last stretched fiber, to save as many other souls as they could, particularly women and children.

The lad who carried the flag in the old fields of war was unarmed and most conspicuous, but most necessary for the rallying and ordering of his comrades. He was indispensable in his choosing the honor of being the single man least likely to survive the battle. The man first up the ladder to scale the walls of a besieged city would likely also be the first man dead beneath; but if he does not go, no one goes.

The Spartans at Thermopylae knew they could not hold that pass forever against a Persian army many times their strength, but they held long enough for the Athenians to prepare for the onslaught. And you hold a pass by understanding that your life is not your life. You block the opening. The foe must break through over your dead body.

A man need not bear a saber to be a true soldier. When Louis Pasteur was searching for cures for infectious diseases, he had not our same luxury of safety. He was a devout Catholic who attracted to himself young men of high ideals and similar devotion. Those men knew that to be Pasteur’s assistant meant constant exposure to, and experimentation with, disease. Theirs was less a profession than a creed. They went forth in the wake of a plague in Egypt, to seek knowledge and cure the sick.

One gentle young man, like the holy Damien of Molokai, contracted the disease himself, and laid his body down in that alien land. The men embraced the risk. They were dispensable; the cause was not.

Want to see the best air guitarists?

http://eloise.cementhorizon.com/albums/Fjords_Musical_Filming_2003/musical_03_mg0008.sized.jpg

Gay marriage is the "battle of our times"

At least it is according to the CS Monitor....they talk about how it has become an argument between equality and religious liberty, and neither point has room for compromise, which is true. Here's the intro to the article.

Gay Marriage Looms as Battle of Our Times
by Jane Lampman

The battle over same-sex marriage is shaping into something more than deep societal tradition vs. civil rights. It is becoming a conflict of equality vs. religious liberty.

As gays make gains, some religious institutions are coming under pressure. For instance:

• A Christian high school in Wildomar, Calif., is being sued for expelling two students on suspicion of being lesbian. The parents' suit claims that the school is a business under state civil rights law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

• Catholic Charities in Boston, where same-sex marriage is legal, recently shuttered its adoption agency rather than serve gay and lesbian couples in conflict with church teaching. The church's request for a religious waiver from state antidiscrimination rules has made no headway.

• Christian clubs at several universities are fighting to maintain school recognition while restricting their leadership to those who conform to their beliefs on homosexuality.

Meanwhile, the Christian Legal Society and similar groups are mounting a national effort to challenge antidiscrimination policies in court, claiming they end up discriminating against conservative Christians.

"The fight over same-sex marriage - and two very different conceptions of the ordering of society - will be a knock-down, drag-out battle," predicts Marc Stern, a religious liberty attorney at the American Jewish Congress.

Both sides are pursuing their agendas in state legislatures, courts, and public schools. Both sides tend to view the struggle as a zero-sum, society-defining conflict. For supporters of gay marriage, it represents the last stage in America's long road to equality, from racial to gender to sexual equality. For opponents, traditional marriage stands as the God-ordained bedrock of society, essential to the well-being of children and the healthy functioning of the community.

While no one expects the courts to force unwilling clergy to perform weddings for same-sex couples, some see a possibility that religious groups (other than houses of worship) could lose their tax-exempt status for not conforming to public policy, as did fundamentalist Bob Jones University, over racial issues in 1983.

Legal experts of various views met last December, hosted by the Becket Fund, a nonpartisan institute promoting religious free expression, to consider the implications of same-sex marriage for religious liberty. Writing about the conference in The Weekly Standard, Maggie Gallagher quoted participants as seeing the coming litigation as "a train wreck," "a collision course," and "the battle of our times."

To ameliorate such conflict, some insist that, given the nation's commitment to both equal rights and religious liberty, accommodations must be found.

The Austrailian talks about the growth of "cultural" Christianity in Europe....

Here is the intro...

Godless Europeans turn to cultural Christianity
by Michael Burleigh

It is increasingly argued, especially by Americans, that contemporary Europe is a godless zone in a world that since the 1980s has witnessed the revenge of God. The one exception to this trend is the growth of radical Islam, a phenomenon that has led some Americans to fear the prospect of "Eurabia", if European demographic decline and Muslim migration continue as they now are.

From an American perspective this has worrying implications. Not least, as we have seen in Britain, when politicians with substantial inner-city Muslim constituents are influenced as to how they vote on key issues.

I am not at all sure that Europe is godless at all. While attendance at churches is declining, most people still claim to believe in God or describe themselves as spiritual.

Increasing numbers describe themselves as cultural Christians, a term borrowed from those who identify themselves as cultural rather than religious Jews. I think we will hear much more of that one.

I also think that politics and religion are going to be more and more inextricably linked, beyond such issues as faith schools, headscarves, or whether Tony Blair prayed with George W. Bush.

Rather than Europe becoming more secular in the past 200 years, I suspect the religious instinct has simply metabolised into other forms. This was most obvious in the case of the political religions. These began with the radical Jacobins during the French Revolution, who made the first attempt to create a "new man" so as to realise heaven on earth through violence. The result was hell for many people, with a quarter of a million people murdered simply for adhering to their traditional Christian beliefs.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Great Peter Kreeft blogs....

I'm definitely a Peter Kreeft fan, so I decided to link back to some of his great blogs over at Ignatius Insight. They are all worth a read.... Enjoy! And as always, you can download a lot of his writings and lectures over at www.peterkreeft.com.















Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Weigel and Card. Schonborn discuss Europe's problems...

By George Weigel

During a conversation in Cracow last July, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, O.P., the archbishop of Vienna, proposed that he and I organize a conference to discuss the growing gap between America and Europe, the roots of that gap as analyzed in my book The Cube and the Cathedral, and the possibilities of strengthening the trans-Atlantic Catholic dialogue and the new evangelization on both continents. I readily agreed, and the conference, which included some fifty public intellectuals from “Old Europe,” “New Europe,” and the United States, met in April in the archbishop’s palace in Vienna. Many of us were housed in a former barracks of the Teutonic Knights; to have come from Poland, where I had been visiting, to the barracks of the Teutonic Knights was ... historically interesting, to say the least. (Why? Google “Battle of Grunwald, 1410”). But the Deutschordenshaus is a story for another day.
Cardinal Schoenborn, who makes great sense in a half-dozen languages, provided the intellectual glue that held an international, interdisciplinary conversation together; as an American present, Dr. William Hurlbut of Stanford, put it, “Coming from California, it’s refreshing and amazing to hear words of truth and light in the accents of Arnold Schwarzenegger.” But perhaps the most intriguing intervention of the conference came from my friend Rémi Brague, who divides his time between the Sorbonne in Paris, where he teaches philosophy, and Munich, where he holds the chair of the late, great Romano Guardini. Professor Brague’s name would rightly appear on any list of Ten Most Intelligent Catholics in the World, and in Vienna, he didn’t disappoint.

Picking up on a phrase I had used in The Cube and the Cathedral, that Europe is “dying from a false story,” Brague suggested a fascinating way of looking at the last two centuries of western history. The 19th century, he proposed, was focused on the question of good-and-evil: the “social question,” posed by the industrial revolution, the emergence of an urban working class, and the demise of traditional society, dominated the landscape. The 20th century, he argued, had been the century of the question of true-and-false: totalitarian ideologies, built on perverse misunderstandings of the human person, defined the contest for the human future that drove history from the aftermath of World War I until the Soviet crack-up in 1991.

And the 21st century? Ours, Professor Brague said, is the century of the question of being-and-nothingness — the century of the metaphysical question.

Which may sound extremely abstract, but is, in fact, very concrete. For if nothing is “given” in the human condition, then everything is up-for-grabs. If, to take a salient example on both sides of the Atlantic, maleness and femaleness are mere “social constructs,” then “marriage” can mean anything someone wants it to mean, including not only “gay marriage” but polygamy and polyandry — and to deny that is an act of irrational bigotry.

Brague, who knows a great deal about Islamic philosophy, knows all about the threat to the West from jihadist Islam. In Vienna, however, he insisted that nihilism – a soured cynicism about the mystery and wonder of being — is the prior enemy-within-the-gates. For nihilism leads to deep skepticism about the human capacity to know the truth of anything; skepticism leads to what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger described on April 18, 2005, as the “dictatorship of relativism;” and relativism is a solvent eating away the foundations of western self-understanding, western civilizational morale — and the western capacity for intelligent self-defense.

An Enlightenment intellectual, cited by Professor Brague, once said that he didn’t have children because begetting children was a criminal act — a matter of condemning another human being to death, to oblivion. That is the kind of nihilism that lies beneath Europe’s demographic suicide of recent decades. That is the kind of nihilism that occupies some of the commanding heights of American culture. That is the kind of nihilism that makes the defense of western civilization difficult today — and would make it impossible tomorrow, were it to triumph culturally.

The very goodness of life, the goodness of being — that is The Issue beneath all the other issues of the 21st century. So suggested Rémi Brague. I’m afraid he’s right.

George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Phone: 303-715-3215.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Peter King of Sports Illustrated picks the Cowboys to go to the Super Bowl...



Early favorites
Peter King, SI.com

The envelope, please. The combatants in Super Bowl XLI, on Feb. 4, 2007, at Dolphins Stadium?

The New England Patriots vs. the Dallas Cowboys. You heard it here first.

All kinds of great angles. Belichick-Parcells. Bledsoe-Belichick. Kraft-Parcells. Brady-Bledsoe. Parcells and his son-in-law, Pats VP of player personnel Scott Pioli, on opposite sides. Maybe we'd call it the Dallas Pioli Bowl. There are two weeks between the conference championships and the Super Bowl this season. We'd need two months to cover all the angles. That's how many good stories would be connected to this game.

And we haven't even mentioned Terrell Owens yet. Or Jerry Jones.

So many good stories that Terry Glenn might make the 17th paragraph of the Associated Press' Super Bowl preview. Might.

Now we get to the idiotic part of the story: defending the pick. I remember picking Minnesota-New England for Super Bowl XL at this time last year, and after I made the pick, I was the toast of the Twin Cities. Talk and print media in Minnesota were all excited about the Vikings getting props from a national columnist in the midst of an exciting off-season. You can see where that got them. Sex-boatgate. Daunte Culpepper playing and acting his way out of town. Mike Tice getting whacked. New England at least won the AFC East and a wild card game last year.

Minnesota won nothing but scorn. So please, take this not with a grain of salt, but with a pound. The Super Bowl is eight months and a week away, and I very much reserve the right to change my mind.

Over the last few days, I filtered my pick down from eight teams. Seattle, Carolina and Tampa Bay were my other NFC teams. San Diego, Indianapolis and Miami were my other AFC teams. When I woke up Saturday morning, I was thinking Carolina-Indianapolis. Then Carolina-San Diego and Dallas-San Diego. I knocked out San Diego because of Philip Rivers' playoff inexperience. I dropped Miami because I don't trust Culpepper to play 16 games, and I really don't trust his backup, Joey Harrington. I eliminated Seattle because I think they'll lose home field advantage with trips to Denver and Tampa Bay in December. Though I really like Bucs quarterback Chris Simms, I'm not sure I can totally trust him yet.

Carolina and Indy? Very, very tough. I can't find much not to like in either team, and I could see both winning the Super Bowl. But history tells me they're too chalk. Only once in the last decade have the Super Bowl teams been in their conference championship games the previous season. There's usually a surprise. Like Seattle and Pittsburgh last season. Who figured they'd make it? Who figured Baltimore and the Giants six years ago, or the Patriots five years ago?

Maybe Indy's lost too much on defense with David Thornton and Larry Tripplett now in Tennessee and Buffalo, respectively. Maybe Dan Morgan once again can't make it through 16 games and the playoffs in Carolina. Maybe DeAngelo Williams isn't the 1,300-yard guy John Fox thinks he is. Maybe the offensive line continues to torment the Panthers. Maybe Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson duel from 10 paces at midseason, tired of screaming for the ball. Maybe it's just an unforgiving late schedule -- at Washington, at Philly, Giants at home, Steelers at home, at Atlanta, at New Orleans to end the season. I don't know. It's a long season and things happen.

I like Dallas because it has answered every question I have for them but two: Is the offensive line good enough and will the secondary have any more meltdowns like the one it had in the last two minutes of the Washington game last year? We'll see. And I like the Cowboys even though they may have to win a road game or two in the playoffs to get to Miami because they just might go 3-3 in the toughest division in football right now.

There's some risk, to be sure, because Owens is a living, breathing incendiary device. But all kinds of silly chemistry things can happen once the year begins. What I like about this team is it addressed almost every one of its major needs entering the off-season. The Cowboys got a kicker with some clutch misses on his resume, Mike Vanderjagt, but he's better than any guy they've had in years. They got the best player in free-agency in Owens, who's also one of the five best offensive forces in football when he's mentally right.

They got a second blocking/catching tight end in the second round in Notre Dame's Anthony Fasano. They got the kind of stonewallish strongside linebacker in the draft -- Bobby Carpenter -- Parcells must have to play the 3-4 the way he wants. That's a really good 3-4 right now, and it could be superb if DeMarcus Ware provides the kind of pass-rush his potential says he can.
I like New England, even though so many leader-type vets are gone. There are still five left -- Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison. That should be more than enough to compensate for the loss of Willie McGinest, but I don't like Adam Vinatieri leaving, especially to the team that has the best chance to torment the Patriots in the conference, Indianapolis. But life will go on.

This team will be better on offense, with a real alternative to Corey Dillon in first-round pick Laurence Maroney. And you watch, the fantasy tight end sleeper this year will be third-rounder Dave Thomas from Texas. The kid's a keeper. Great hands, great route-runner. Brady's going to love him, and he'll find him six or seven times in the end. Write it down.

You know what else I like about Dallas and New England? Their schedules. December looks like it'll be kind to both teams. The Cowboys finish with three of four at home (New Orleans, at Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit). Look at New England's final eight games: Jets, at Packers, Bears, Lions, at Dolphins, Texans, at Jags, at Titans. There's a chance they'll be favored in all eight.
So it's Dallas-New England ... unless after touring the camps this summer, I feel like picking two other poor, unsuspecting teams.

Oh, you want a score?

Parcells goes out on top. Dallas 23, New England 21, behind six catches (two for touchdowns) by Owens.

After the game, Parcells hugs his owner, retires, hugs his son-in-law and takes the first plane to Saratoga the next day. He'll go out a winner.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I can't believe this parish is banning kneeling...it's sick...

From the LA Times:

A Ban on Kneeling? Some Catholics Won't Stand for It
By David Haldane, Times Staff WriterMay 28, 2006

At a small Catholic church in Huntington Beach, the pressing moral question comes to this: Does kneeling at the wrong time during worship make you a sinner?Kneeling "is clearly rebellion, grave disobedience and mortal sin," Father Martin Tran, pastor at St. Mary's by the Sea, told his flock in a recent church bulletin. The Diocese of Orange backs Tran's anti-kneeling edict.

Though told by the pastor and the archdiocese to stand during certain parts of the liturgy, a third of the congregation still gets on its knees every Sunday. "Kneeling is an act of adoration," said Judith M. Clark, 68, one of at least 55 parishioners who have received letters from church leaders urging them to get off their knees or quit St. Mary's and the Diocese of Orange. "You almost automatically kneel because you're so used to it. Now the priest says we should stand, but we all just ignore him."

The debate is being played out in at least a dozen parishes nationwide.Since at least the 7th century, Catholics have been kneeling after the Agnus Dei, the point during Mass when the priest holds up the chalice and consecrated bread and says, "Behold the lamb of God." But four years ago, the Vatican revised its instructions, allowing bishops to decide at some points in the Mass whether their flocks should get on their knees. "

The faithful kneel … unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise," says Rome's book of instructions. Since then, some churches have been built without kneelers.The debate is part of the argument among Catholics between tradition and change. Traditionalists see it as the ultimate posture of submission to and adoration of God; modernists view kneeling as the vestige of a feudal past they would like to leave behind.

At the center of the controversy is the church's concept of Christ, said Jesuit Father Lawrence J. Madden, director of the Georgetown Center for Liturgy at Georgetown University in Washington. It's a question raised in the bestselling book "The Da Vinci Code."Because the earliest Christians viewed Jesus as God and man, Madden said, they generally stood during worship services to show reverence and equality. About the 7th century, however, Catholic theologians put more emphasis on Christ's divinity and introduced kneeling as the only appropriate posture at points in the Mass when God was believed to be present.

Things started to change in the 1960s, Madden said, when Vatican II began moving the church back to its earliest roots. What has ensued, he said, is the predictable struggle of an institution revising centuries of religious practices.The argument over kneeling, Madden said, is "a signal of the division in the church between two camps: those who have caught the spirit of Vatican II, and those who are a bit suspicious. Because it's so visible, what happens at the Sunday worship event is a lightning rod for lots of issues."

One flashpoint involves the Agnus Dei. Traditionalists say the faithful must then fall to their knees in awe for several minutes, believing that the bread and wine are literally the body and blood of Christ.Lesa Truxaw, the Orange Diocese director of worship, said Bishop Tod D. Brown banned kneeling because standing "reflects our human dignity. It's not that we think we're equal to God, but we recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God."

Orange County parishioners are still allowed to kneel at other points in the Mass, including the Eucharistic prayers. Kneeling is optional as worshippers receive communion.No less an authority than the pope is on record as favoring kneeling. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI last year, wrote in "The Spirit of the Liturgy," published in 2000, that the gesture, "comes from the Bible and the knowledge of God." He has not addressed the issue as pope.American Catholic bishops have taken the opposite position. "Standing can be just as much an expression of respect for the coming of Christ," said Msgr. Anthony F. Sherman, a spokesman for the liturgy secretariat of the U.S. Bishops Committee on the Liturgy based in Washington.

That hasn't quieted critics."It's hard to understand why any bishop would prohibit his people from expressing reverence in the way they have done for centuries," said Helen Hull Hitchcock, a founder of the conservative Adoremus Society for the Renewal of Sacred Liturgy in St. Louis.The controversy at St. Mary's by the Sea began to intensify late last year after Brown appointed Tran to lead the 1,500-family parish. Tran took over following the retirement of the church's longtime pastor, who had offered a popular traditional Latin Mass.Tran's Mass reverted to the more modern English form practiced in most American churches, and hundreds of parishioners signed a petition in protest. Then, to pull the church into the modern era, the priest told members, they were not to kneel after the Agnus Dei. Many refused to comply. "Not kneeling would be sinful," said Manuel Ruiz, 45, "because that is what I believe I should do."Mary Tripoli, 54, a former member of the parish council, was dismissed for her insistence on kneeling: "Standing may be reverence, but kneeling is adoration. It's the one thing that means Catholicism throughout the world. It's what sets us apart."At least two altar boys, the parish altar servers coordinator and three members of the parish council have been dismissed from their duties for kneeling at the wrong time, according to parishioners.Angered by the anti-kneeling edict, a group calling itself Save Saint Mary's began distributing leaflets calling for its return outside church each Sunday.

Tran responded in the church bulletin with a series of strident weekly statements condemning what he called "despising the authority of the local bishop" by refusing his orders to stand, and calling the disobedience a mortal sin, considered the worst kind of offense, usually reserved for acts such as murder. Tran sent letters to 55 kneeling parishioners "inviting" them to leave the parish and the diocese for, among other things, "creating misleading confusion, division and chaos in the parish by intentional disobedience and opposition to the current liturgical norms."Father Joe Fenton, spokesman for the Diocese of Orange, said the diocese supports Tran's view that disobeying the anti-kneeling edict is a mortal sin. "That's Father Tran's interpretation, and he's the pastor," he said. "We stand behind Father Tran."Recipients of Tran's banishment letter said they have declined his "invitation" to depart. Kneeling, said Teri Carpentier, 50, is praying "with our bodies, not just our minds." During a recent Saturday afternoon Mass, dozens of worshippers defiantly knelt after the Agnus Dei.

One who didn't was Winifred Mentzer, 84."I've been standing lately," she later said, "because I'm all the way up front, and I know that the priest is watching. But I'm kneeling in my heart."

Nearly 1 million for mass in Krakow...


Pope's Mass Draws 900,000 in Krakow
Sunday , May 28, 2006

KRAKOW, Poland — Some 900,000 Poles sang, clapped and chanted "Benedetto, Benedetto" at Mass in a soggy field Sunday for Pope Benedict XVI, who urged them to share their faith with other countries in a mostly secular Europe.

Benedict said that was the best way to honor his predecessor, John Paul II — one of the themes of his four-day visit to John Paul's homeland.

"I ask you, finally, to share with the other peoples of Europe and the world the treasure of your faith, not least as a way of honoring the memory of your countryman, who, as the successor of St. Peter, did this with extraordinary power and effectiveness," said Benedict as he concluded his homily during the Mass in the Blonia meadow.

"I ask you to stand firm in your faith! Stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!" he concluded, speaking in Polish on the last day of his trip.

The enormous, exuberant crowd chanted his name and sang "Sto Lat," or "A Hundred Years," wishing him a long life.

Benedict has appealed to dominantly Catholic Poland to serve as a beacon of faith in a Europe that has become mostly secular. The country joined the European Union only two years ago, 15 years after the collapse of communist rule.

"He told us that we should remain ourselves, that we should stay as we were before, attached to our traditions and Christian values," said Jacek Radon, a 37-year-old businessman from Krakow. "We should carry into the European Union our attachment to faith and to Christ."
"We should be ourselves, which means we should not take shortcuts to an easy and comfortable life with no responsibility, but should take responsibility and act according to our faith."

Later in the day, the pope is to make a somber stop at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp before flying back to Rome. The visit, by a German pope who was enrolled unwillingly in the Hitler Youth and drafted into the German army, is heavy with significance for Catholic-Jewish relations.

A shadow was cast over the Auschwitz visit by an attack Saturday on Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, who is to say Kaddish, or the Jewish prayer for the dead, during the ceremony led by the pope.

Schudrich told The Associated Press that he was attacked in central Warsaw after confronting a man who shouted at him, "Poland for Poles." The rabbi said the unidentified man punched him in the chest and sprayed him with what appeared to be pepper spray, but that he was uninjured. Police said they were treating the incident as a possible anti-Semitic attack.

The 79-year-old Benedict has reached out to Poles by delivering parts of his speeches and homilies in Polish, and by retracing beloved native son John Paul II's steps. He visited John Paul's birthplace, Wadowice, and Sunday's Mass was held on the same spot where John Paul also drew large crowds on his return trips to Krakow, where he served as archbishop before becoming pope.

Although Benedict has avoided using German, some at the Mass held German flags and a banner reading in German, "We greet our Holy Father."

Benedict has won applause during his visit to Poland for encouraging prayers for John Paul's canonization, and for saying he hopes it will happen "in the near future."

People in Krakow have responded warmly, giving him his first John Paul-sized crowds of the trip, with police estimating Sunday's crowd at 900,000 — on the order of the throngs who turned out for John Paul, and more than the roughly 300,000 who came to Benedict's Mass on Thursday in Warsaw on the first day of his trip.

Some people spent the night in the field, while others streamed in with folding chairs and umbrellas early in the morning.

Kamila Wrobel, 16, spent the night in the meadow and got soaking wet, but felt it was worth it. She rode four hours with her Catholic youth group from the town of Debica, and was present for John Paul's Mass in the meadow in 2002.

"The pope is probably in Poland for the first and last time," she said. "This is a great, great experience filled with emotion.

"When he says something in Polish, then the atmosphere becomes really very special," she said.

Friday, May 26, 2006

For all your Papal Poland Trip 2006 needs....

Go to the American Papist....he's got EVERYTHING you could ever want and more....

http://www.americanpapist.com/2006/05/great-poland-post-of-2006.html


Fr. Wauck has a great review of DV Code at Beliefnet

Here's the intro to the review...

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THE DAVINCI CODE: A BLESSING IN DISGUISE
By Father John Wauck

What’s it like for someone who’s been a member of Opus Dei for more than 20 years to watch "The Da Vinci Code"? It turns out to be a fairly amusing experience. By way of example, try to imagine a British intelligence officer watching a James Bond movie: yes, England exists, and, yes, spies exist, but apart from that, it’s all pretty much hooey. The caricature presented is so unrecognizable, so far off the mark, that you can’t really feel outrage, because you don’t even feel like a target.

Unfortunately, the "Da Vinci Code’s" silliness is not nearly as light and entertaining as James Bond’s, but now that the critics seem to have exhausted all the different ways of saying the film is lousy, it’s probably useless to point out its flaws yet again (stale, humorless, boring, long, unimaginative, over-stuffed… it’s all that and more). So I’ll move on to the more interesting question: What exactly went wrong? After all, the book, for all its faults, managed to be fun in a stupid comic-book way. At some level, it hit a chord; it worked. The movie does not.

Perhaps it was a mistake to treat the novel as a thriller. As a thriller, it was only mediocre. As a loopy cocktail of pseudo-culture, however, it was a tour-de-force. That is why the greatest measurable impact of "The Da Vinci Code" has been not on religious practice (more or less unchanged), but rather on tourism (record numbers at sites in Paris, London, and Rome). It is this cultural cocktail--not the thrills, not the supposed “blasphemy”--that is the source of the novel’s allure and runaway sales.

Ultimately, it looks as though director Ron Howard erred in trying to make a serious movie out of a fundamentally unserious book. There isn’t a single laugh or thrill in the whole film. Earnest fidelity seems to have been Howard’s goal. Of course, it would have been impossible to cram all the mistakes and absurdities of the novel into even a five-hour film, but in the mere two-and-a-half hours at his disposal, Howard does his solemn best. It’s all there: Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the Gnostic “gospels,” Constantine and the Council of Nicea, medieval witches, the Templars, the Priory of Sion, Clement V, the Crusades, Opus Dei, etc.

"The Da Vinci Code" is so cluttered with historical, symbological, and theological pseudo-facts that it seems hard to imagine any viewer, even one who manages not to doze off, walking out of the theater with a coherent recollection of what exactly has been said--which is probably a blessing. In the long run, this kind of feeble, fictional “attack” will probably end up doing far more good than harm to Christianity, Catholicism, and Opus Dei.

Will all the priestly spies please step forward?

Church leadership in Poland is asking all of the priest who spied for the communists to come forward and repent. Some some as much as 10 percent of the Polish priests during that time were spies...that is unbelievable...could there be spies among us at our parishes now? Didn't think so.
http://digitalmusic.weblogsinc.com/media/2006/01/Spy_vs_Spy.jpg
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Polish Catholics urge clergy spies to come forward

By Jonathan Luxmoore
5/25/2006

Catholic News Service

WARSAW, Poland – Influential Polish Catholics have urged clergy who spied for the communist secret police to admit their guilt, following a recent report that named a priest as a former spy.

"It is with great pain that we receive the news about priests and others linked with the church who collaborated with the security services of the communist state – they cast a shadow on the Catholic Church's heroic history under communist rule," said an open letter May 24.

The letter said that the more than 100 lay Catholics who signed it felt "responsibility for our church" and that they could not stay silent.

The letter was published by Poland's wiara.pl news agency a day before Pope Benedict XVI's arrival for his May 25-28 visit in Poland.

Addressing Polish clergy May 25 in Warsaw's Cathedral of St. John, Pope Benedict said that communist rule had created "an unconscious tendency to hide under an external mask," and that the church should remember "there are sinners among her members."

"We must guard against the arrogant claim of setting ourselves up to judge earlier generations who lived in different times and circumstances," Pope Benedict said. "Humble sincerity is needed not to deny the sins of the past, and at the same time not to indulge in facile accusations in the absence of real evidence or without regard to the different preconceptions of the time."

The letter said Catholics understood the "difficult situation" of people whose sins had "harmed the whole Polish church."

However, it added, Catholics were offended by the "lack of courage, humility and trust" shown by many former clergy informers.

"We understand how hard it must be to admit one's own faults and sincerely confess the truth – this demands courage and great penance. But is this penance not precisely what Christ expects from us?" said the letter, whose signers included editors of Poland's Wiez and Znak Catholic monthlies.

It said the issue of clergy collaborators affected "the whole church community, including priests, religious and laity."

"Since the time of Peter, the community of the church has had to distance itself from betrayal and unfaithfulness, as well as a lack of confidence in love and forgiveness," the letter said. "We appeal to your consciences – have the courage to trust in our forgiveness, which has its source in the mercy of God."

However, it said, "We cannot and do not want to evaluate specific cases, since we know how easy it once was to make mistakes and harm innocent people."

The letter came after a May 17 report in Poland's Zycie Warszawy daily that said Warsaw-based Msgr. Michal Czajkowski informed to the communists for more than two decades about fellow clergy, including Solidarity movement hero Father Jerzy Popieluszko, who was later murdered by communist agents.

Msgr. Czajkowski denied the claims in a May 22 statement in Poland's Catholic information agency, KAI, but resigned from his posts as church supervisor of the Wiez monthly and co-chairman of Poland's Council of Christians and Jews.

Approximately 10 percent of Catholic clergy are believed to have acted as informers in communist Poland, although higher recruitment rates were recorded in some dioceses in the 1980s.

In recent months, Poland's Catholic bishops were urged to take action against collaborators after a Solidarity movement dissident, Father Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski, claimed to have seen the names of Krakow-based clerical collaborators while reading his own secret police file.

Changes to the mass are coming...

The bishops will soon be deciding whether or not to alter the translation of the english mass in order to better represent the latin....I hope they do it. Here's an article which goes through some of the changes that will occur.

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Bishops to vote on new Order of Mass in English

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service


WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops will be asked to approve a new translation of the Order of Mass when they meet in Los Angeles June 15-17.

If the new translation is adopted as proposed and subsequently approved by the Vatican, Catholics will have to learn a number of changes in their Mass prayers and responses. Among the more obvious will be:

-- Whenever the priest says "The Lord be with you," the people will respond, "And with your spirit." The current response is "And also with you."

-- In the first form of the penitential rite, the people will confess that "I have sinned greatly ... through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." In the current version, that part of the prayer is much shorter: "I have sinned through my own fault."

-- The Nicene Creed will begin "I believe" instead of "We believe" -- a translation of the Latin text instead of the original Greek text.

-- The Sanctus will start, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of hosts." The current version says, "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might."

Approving a new text of the Order of Mass is only the first step in a long process of considering and approving a new translation of the entire book of prayers said at Mass. In the United States that book has been called the Sacramentary since 1970, but the Vatican wishes to restore the name Roman Missal, since it is an English translation, with minor adaptations, of the normative Latin "Missale Romanum."

Officials of the bishops' Secretariat for the Liturgy told Catholic News Service May 23 that it is uncertain whether the bishops will seek to publish the new Order of Mass for U.S. use as soon as possible or wait until they have the new English translation of the entire Roman Missal completed. Completing the entire Roman Missal is likely to take at least two more years.

Once the bishops adopt new liturgical texts, they must also be confirmed by the Vatican before they can be authorized for use.

In general, people will find many of the Mass prayers in the new version slightly longer and fuller, as the new translation is based on rules for liturgical translations issued by the Vatican in a 2001 instruction. Unlike the previous Vatican rules -- which encouraged freer translations more adapted to the language into which one was translating -- the new rules require closer adherence to the normative Latin text.

In a recent letter Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, told the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that if a current text does not conform to the new translation norms it must be changed.

"It is not acceptable to maintain that people have become accustomed to a certain translation for the past 30 or 40 years, and therefore that it is pastorally advisable to make no changes. ... The revised text should make the needed changes," he wrote.

He said his congregation is open to dialogue about "difficulties regarding the translation of a particular text," but the 2001 instruction calling for translations more faithful to the Latin text "remains the guiding norm."

His letter, dated May 2 and addressed to Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., USCCB president, was posted on the Catholic World News Web site in late May.

In response to a query from CNS, Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy, said Bishop Skylstad sent the letter to all Latin-rite bishops in advance of the June meeting.

"I see this letter as a clarification and further restatement of criteria for translation previously authored by the congregation," Bishop Trautman said. He said it "offers additional input for the deliberation of the bishops."

The Order of Mass, found at the center of the Roman Missal, consists of the prayers recited every day at Mass, as distinct from the Scripture readings and prayers that are proper to the day's feast.

Thus what the bishops are to vote on in June are new versions of the prayers that Massgoers are most familiar with because they hear or say them so regularly.

Within the Order of Mass are some prayers for which there are a limited number of alternatives, such as the forms of the penitential rite, the four different eucharistic prayers or the various acclamations following the consecration.

The text the bishops are to vote on in June does not include the prefaces, solemn blessings, prayers over the people or elements found in the appendix that also form part of the Order of Mass.

The International Commission on English in the Liturgy, which prepared the text to be voted on, is still consulting with English-speaking bishops' conferences around the world on the translation of the prefaces and other elements and does not have a final version of them yet.

Churchgoers will have to learn a different version of the Gloria when the new texts are put into use because part of the current prayer in English does not follow the structure of the Latin version.

In the Nicene Creed, where the current version refers to Christ as "one in being with the Father," the new ICEL translation says, "consubstantial with the Father." In the documentation sent to the bishops before the meeting, however, the Committee on the Liturgy has recommended keeping the "one in being" translation in the United States.

The new ICEL text for the people's prayer before Communion says, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

The committee proposed that the bishops seek to keep the current shorter version of the beginning of that prayer, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you." The committee did not, however, propose a change from the ICEL translation at the end, where the people currently pray, "but only say the word and I shall be healed."

The bishops will also vote on several American adaptations in the Order of Mass, such as adding the acclamation, used in the United States since 1970 but not found in the Roman Missal in Latin, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."

666 is approaching

I noticed because I saw a movie ad for "The Omen", which comes out on June 6th...nice marketing touch. There is definitely a recent resurgence in interest in numerology...the DaVinci code, the hit tv show "Lost", etc. Here's an article from Fox News which goes into people's fascination with 666 and numerology...

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Six Six Six: Number Looms Large in Numerology, but Scientists Dismiss It

Friday , May 26, 2006

By Heather Whipps

If you're just a bit more cautious on a Friday the 13th, wouldn't fly on Sept. 11 or could never live in a house numbered 666, you are not alone.

With 06/06/06 looming (June 6, 2006), authorities in some cities are worrying prophecy theorists or hate groups might read something ominous into the date and use it as an excuse to stir tension.

Some expectant mothers are making birthing appointments to ensure they avoid the date, according to the Sunday Times in London.

For others, it is a marketing opportunity. Twentieth Century Fox's remake of "The Omen" and Ann Coulter's book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," will both come out June 6.

The Beast

The number 666 is used to refer to the Beast — the Antichrist — in the Bible's Book of Revelations:

"He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666."

Among many coincidences that occur with numbers, life itself is based partly on these three: Carbon atoms, key to life as we know it, have six protons, six neutrons and six electrons in their most common form.

That there is concern over the date at all is a reflection of how popular it's become to search for the hidden meanings in numbers, experts say.

"People have a tendency to latch onto things, like numbers, that help them make sense of the world," said Mario Livio, an astrophysicist and author of 2005's "The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved."

Troubled times

The perceived importance of numbers becomes especially true during troubled times, when finding wisdom in numbers can be a comfort, says professional numerologist Sonia Ducie.

"Humanity and individuals are attracted to numbers during times of great transformation," Ducie said.

The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are an overwhelming example. Conspiracy theorists in the years since the tragedy have tried hard to thread together "eerie" numerological coincidences, especially those tied to the number eleven.

A few of the best known:

— 9 + 1 + 1 = 11

— The first plane to hit the World Trade Center was American Airlines Flight 11; AA can also be "translated" as the alphabet's version of 11.

— The State of New York was the eleventh state added to the union.

— The names "George W. Bush," "New York City," "Air Force One," "Afghanistan" and "The Pentagon" all contain eleven letters.

Despite its modern manifestations, searching for deeper meanings in numbers is a practice that goes back to ancient times, Livio said.

"Numerology has a long history," he told LiveScience. "You can trace it all the way from the followers of Pythagoras, whose maxim to describe the universe was 'all is number.'"

Thinkers who studied under the famous Greek mathematician combined numbers in different ways to explain everything around them, Livio said.

Para-science

Modern numerology has since morphed into a kind of para-science in the same vein as astrology, according to skeptics. Still, many numerologists claim to rely on Pythagoras' ancient system to divine the hidden connections between numbers — often a birth date — and an individual's life.

Our attraction to certain numbers has to do with the cycles of birth and death those numbers have seen through many millions of years in existence, said Ducie, who trained at the Connaissance School of Numerology in Royston, Hertfordshire, England.

"People are subconsciously drawn towards specific numbers because they know that they need the experiences, attributes or lessons associated with them, that are contained within their potential," she said. "Numerology can 'make sense' of an individual's life (health, career, relationships, situations and issues) by recognizing which number cycle they are in, and by giving them clarity."

Mathematicians are quick to dismiss numerology as having no scientific merit, however.

"I don't endorse this at all," said Livio, when asked to comment on the popularity of commercial numerology today.

Seemingly coincidental connections between numbers will always appear if you look hard enough, he said.

Lucky numbers

When it comes to lucky numbers, at least, Ducie agreed.

"People can also 'make' numbers lucky simply by believing they will be lucky when they have those numbers around them; these preconditioned thoughts strongly contribute towards their manifestation of luck," she said.

The obsession with particular numbers also tends to wax and wane according to the trends of popular culture, Livio noted.

Dan Brown's mammoth bestseller "The Da Vinci Code" has played a part with its showcase of the golden ratio, or divine proportion, which Livio explores in his book "The Golden Ratio" (Broadway, 2003).

The irrational number — one plus the square root of five, divided by two, or approximately 1.61804 — is said to exist mysteriously in various places in nature and be extremely attractive to the human eye.

Spin-offs in the worlds of architecture, art and even diet books are a result of the "Code" phenomenon.

Ronald Reagan's 666

The supposed number of the devil falls in and out of favor with the public, too. It is unclear just how influential the number was in the centuries after the Bible became widespread as literature, but it was certainly ingrained in popular culture after the 1976 release of the movie "The Omen", in which the neck of a demon-child is stamped with the digits 666.

When former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy retired to their last home in the Bel Air district of Los Angeles in 1989, they forced officials to change their address from 666 to 668 St. Cloud Road, Livio said.

No word on whether the former president, whose full name was Ronald Wilson Reagan, was bothered by the number of letters in each of his first, middle and last names.

Soon we can all be invisible like Harry Potter...

http://www.snitchseeker.com/gallery/data/media/3/psss143.jpg

According to scientists, the invisbility cloak is not an impossibility, but rather a question of advancing engineering and technology. This article explains that one day we can all be invisible if we want (can you imagine the legal nightmares that will come from this?). Here's the intro to the article:

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Researchers: Cloak of Invisibility Technically Possible

Friday , May 26, 2006

WASHINGTON — The key to creating a Harry Potter-like invisibility cloak lies in manmade materials unlike any in nature or the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, researchers say.

They're laying out a blueprint for turning science fiction into reality. And they say that, in theory, nothing's stopping them from making such a cloak.

Well, almost nothing: They still need to perfect the manufacture of those exotic materials with an ability to steer light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation around a cloaked object, rendering it as invisible as something tucked into a hole in space.

"Is it science fiction? Well, it's theory and that already is not science fiction. It's theoretically possible to do all these Harry Potter things, but what's standing in the way is our engineering capabilities," said John Pendry, a physicist at Imperial College London.

Details of the study, which Pendry co-wrote, appear in Thursday's online edition of the journal Science.

Scientists not involved in the work said it presents a solid case for making invisibility an attainable goal.

"This is very interesting science and a very interesting idea and it is supported on a great mathematical and physical basis," said Nader Engheta, a professor of electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

Engheta has done his own work on invisibility using novel materials called metamaterials.

Pendry and his co-authors also propose using metamaterials because they can be tuned to bend electromagnetic radiation — radio waves and visible light, for example — in any direction.

A cloak made of those materials, with a structure designed down to the submicroscopic scale, would neither reflect light nor cast a shadow.

Instead, like a river streaming around a smooth boulder, light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation would strike the cloak and simply flow around it, continuing on as if it never bumped up against an obstacle.

That would give an onlooker the apparent ability to peer right through the cloak, with everything tucked inside concealed from view.





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