Saturday, March 31, 2007

Oh yeah...

A writer from the National Catholic Register contacted me last week to ask me some questions about Buddhism, in preparation for a story he's covering on the upcoming visit of the Dali Lama to the US. I responded, and it looks like I might get a mention in the article.

Maybe someone will contact me to ask about the latest visit of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

No, not that Ravi Shankar.

Move along, folks, nothing to see...

I don't have a whole lot to say today, so I'm directing traffic to other blogs here something's actually happening, like...

American Papist Tom Peters, son of canonist Dr. Ed Peters, successfully defended his master's thesis!

And Dale Price mentions a new blog for Catholic Dads.

Phatcatholic Nicholas Hardesty has more Haight speech.

Hey, and if ya didn't know it, the Anonymous Teacher Person is teaching again, but not so anonymously!

Are any of you getting a littel tired of Motu Proprio prognostications? CNS makes it sound like a done deal.

UPDATE: Just sitting through my video lecture by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosios on papal extraordinary magisterium, I suddenly came to an odd sense of certainty that the Motu Proprio will be released during Pentecost. It only makes sense to me that a document that ultimately aims to restore the liturgy to its true sense would come at a time during which the true sense of Christ's mission and reality were becoming clear to the early Church. Take that with a few grains of salt.

Monday, March 19, 2007

On Forgiveness

We had an interesting homily yesterday, the subject of which was forgiveness. The content was good although I have my suspiscions about the motivation behind some of the comments. However, the main point of the message was that we are called to forgive others as we are also forgiven. This command is, of course, very clear on both its requirements and the consequences. If we do not forgive, or sins will not be forgiven.

We must always be aware of our obligation to forgive and cognizant of the mercy of our Father, who graciously forgives us even after endless offenses. I've heard some apologists claim that forgiveness is required of us, but only if the one who has offended has asked for forgiveness. Now, I don't see anything in the gospel indicating that one must ask to be forgiven for our obligation to be present. I do recall two examples in which Christ forgives those who have not requested it: the healing of the paralytic and the crucifixion. Stephen also does the same at his martyrdom. I think that counts pretty highly up there as a clear indication that we should forgive, even when those who hurt us are not repentant. Psychologically, it certainly does one better to forgive and move on than to nurse a grudge.

However, the flip side of this obligation on our part is the obligation of offenders to request forgiveness, to recognize and acknowledge their hurtful actions. While we might not have the right to judge, one who judges us requires repentance of use when we sin. We certainly have no right to demand forgiveness when we have harmed someone, and to expect forgiveness without sincere repentance is itself a sin of presumption in the eyes of the Church.

So while we are obligated to forgive to be forgiven, we are also obligated to repent and to ask for forgiveness when we have done something to harm others. Both are required, and a demand for one without the other is not truly just.

UPDATE: Another thought...

I did want to clarify that our asking forgiveness is something we need to do to others, not only to God. Obviously we have to do the latter, but we often neglect the former and call it good. However, if we neglect to ask forgiveness of those whom we've offended, if we fail to apologize, we fail in our end of the reconciliation (healing) process. For there to be true healing, the offending parties need to acknowledge where they have given offense. Otherwise, there is no true reconciliation.

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism]

Where have I been?

I've been busy!


I spent mst of last week in Seattle for a Microsoft summit. That was interesting, particularly since the previous three I've attended were pre-Vista. Last week wasn't the best time for travel. I had a paper due on Saturday and only some of my notes and articles. However, everything went well. I completed the paper without the need of the extension I had requested, and I got a good my grade.

My wife and I managed to miss the underground tour again. However, the tour starts two doors down from Utilikilt, a store that specializes in kilts for everyday wear.

These aren't your traditional tartan kilts. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find anything remotely resembling traditional in this shop. However, they do make a sturdy-looking kilt in a variety of styles. And they absolutely recommend doing manly things in them. They even have a special design for craftsman called the Workman's. (Hey, I didn't name the thing. I know it's a possessive and not a proper noun.)

So you might wonder why I would venture into such a place. Well, as it happens, my wife has been wanting me to get a kilt for a long time—something about having the legs for it. Anyway, I figured it couldn't hurt to look.

Hmmm? Oh, did I try one on? Well, I don't really want to go into a whole lot of detail, and your know, we were rather pressed for time... had to get to the airport and all...

Yes. I tried one on. Darn comfy, if you ask me.

So you might wonder when I plan to order one.

Well, I don't really know if I'm ready to embrace my inner clansman just yet... all things being equal, and being rather partial to tartan anyway...

Um... right.

I'm ordering right now. :-)

Domine, da mihi hanc aquam!: Who's ya daddy?

Fr. Phillip Powell has some entertaining reflections on St. Joseph and familial relationships.

Who's ya daddy?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Player Haighter

I wonder of Nicholas will wish he'd thought of that blog title. :-)

The aforementioned Phatcatholic has posted on a number of texts he's reading for a Christology course. I haven't taken any Christology courses yet, but we've had a little in this Norms of Catholic Doctrine course I'm taking now, as well as some additional coverage in supplemental readings for the philosophy for theologians course. Anyway, Nicholas mentioned one particular text that is being used for the purpose of critique in the course. All of the other texts are preparation for an apology against this particular text, Jesus Symbol of God by Father Roger Haight S.J. Nicholas pointed to a notification by the CDF (under Cardinal Ratzinger) concerning this text and subsequent unfortunate response from the Catholic Theological Society of America. I say unfortunate because, in my next-to-worthless opinion, it is a stance that reeks of postmodern academic relativism.

Now, to be fair (too late!), I should say that I have not read this book yet. My current position is based solely on the summary provided in the CDF's notification. The summary of the book's prefatory statement, though, throws up enough red flags about it:

In the Preface of his book Jesus Symbol of God, the Author explains that today theology must be done in dialogue with the postmodern world, but it also “must remain faithful to its originating revelation and consistent tradition” (p. xii), in the sense that the data of the faith constitute the norm and criteria for a theological hermeneutic. He also asserts that it is necessary to establish a “critical correlation” (cf. pp. 40-47) between these data and the modes and qualities of postmodern thought, characterized in part by a radical historical and pluralistic consciousness (cf. pp. 24, 330-334): “The tradition must be critically received into the present situation” (p. 46).

The problem with this idea of correlating of "these data and the qualities of postmodern thought" is that the phrase "postmodern thought" conjures up a Derridean agenda of subverting the authoritative reading of the text. The whole point of postmodern thought is to question or overturn previous claims of authoritative interpretation. For example, if we were to take Cain's question to Our Lord, "Am I my brother's keeper (Gen. 4:9)?" and subject it to analysis from traditional and postmodern perspectives, Tradition would respond that Revelation says "Yes. We are our brothers' keepers." However, the postmodern would say, "That's a good question, one that gives us two opposing and contradictory answers, neither of which can be authoritative, so we're left with a meaningless question."

Tradition offers meaning. Deconstruction offers something else. This is a simplification, of course, but you can see how this method gives those on the so-called progressive side complete freedom to dispense with whatever doesn't fit the predilections of the one attempting to "make meaning" or to co-opt the Word and manipulate it to fit the spirit of the time.

Haight's book seems to have just such an agenda. Right out of the gate, the book intends to question Tradition rather than to engage it. The author says as much, as the notification relates:

With particular regard to the validity of dogmatic, especially christological formulations in a postmodern cultural and linguistic context, which is different from the one in which they were composed, the Author states that these formulations should not be ignored, but neither should they be uncritically repeated, “because they do not have the same meaning in our culture as they did when they were formulated [...]. Therefore, one has no choice but to engage the classical councils and to explicitly interpret them for our own period” (p. 16). [citation theirs]

Lest I make errant claims concerning the postmodern (in this case, deconstructive method) method at work here, let me give you some examples of his claims:

The dogma of Nicaea does not teach, therefore, that the eternally pre-existent Son or Logos is consubstantial with and eternally begotten of the Father.

Which, if course, is precisely what the Council of Nicea teaches, that the Son is consubstantial (homoousion) with the Father. This specific term was debated because the Arian faction attempted to claim that Christ was of "like substance" (homoiousion), hence subordinate and not one in being with the Father. As Mike Aquilina said, "Homoousios, homoiousios: it was just one iota’s difference. that was all the difference in the world, and good men were willing to die for the sake of the difference." (He really should've saved that line for a book. It's priceless.)

Of the canons of Chalcedon, we're apparently confronted with such difficulty in Tradition because of the problem of the hypostatic union. But no worries about that, claims Haight:

The “postmodern situation in christology”, says the Author, “entails a change of viewpoint that leaves the Chalcedonian problematic behind” (p. 290), precisely in the sense that the hypostatic union, or “enhypostatic” union, would be understood as “the union of no less than God as Word with the human person Jesus” (p. 442).

And so on. The Trinity, the hypostatic union, Christ's consubstantiality, all premodern misunderstandings of the symbol of Christ signifying transcendence, a signifier pointing to but wholly distinct and ever separated from the signified (the Father). (See the works of Ferdinand de Saussure concerning sign , signifier, and signified.)

And what of the salvific value of Jesus death?

It is also asserted that the traditional ecclesiastical language “of Jesus suffering for us, of being a sacrifice to God, of absorbing punishment for sin in our place, of being required to die to render satisfaction to God, hardly communicates meaningfully to our age” (p. 241). Such language is to be abandoned because “the images associated with this talk offend and even repulse postmodern sensibility and thereby form a barrier to a salutary appreciation of Jesus Christ” (p. 241).

Or the resurrection?

Moreover, according to the Author’s interpretation, “the historicity of the empty tomb and appearance narratives is not essential to resurrection faith-hope” (p. 147, n. 54; cf. pp. 124, 134). Rather, these stories “are ways of expressing and teaching the content of a faith already formed” (p. 145).

The author disputes essentially every basic doctrine of the faith in the name of postmodern thought, as if only we have the ability to truly know anything. At the same time, the very method he uses is the ground of his own unravelling. If his critique of the words and dogmatic formulas leave Traditional understanding in a state of instability or reversal, what does the postmodern decentralization of meaning do to his claims? They're just as worthless as any other, just as unauthoritative as the former authorities.

What's truly sad is that the Catholic Theological Society of America considers the CDF's notification to be contrary to the spirit of theological inquiry, or as they put it:

Ironically, rather than promote greater criticism of the book, the Congregation’s intervention will most likely discourage debates over the book, effectively stifling further criticism and undermining our ability as Catholic theologians to openly critique our colleagues.

This claim ignores two rather obvious factors:

1. The CDF made repeated attempts to engage the author in debate about the claims. Clearly, the responses they received were unsatisfactory.

2. Part of the CDF's particular competency is doctrine, hence, theology. They, as well as American theologians, have the right to engage in the debate, and when reasonable, make judgements about it.

What's particularly troubling is that the nonsense some theoligians spew in the name of postmodern thought simply confirms what many empiricists have believed about liberal-arts fields in general and theology in particular. Heck, they make jokes about it, submit bogus and nonsensical papers to critical journals and get them published, and essentially toss the whole realm of study out the window as lacking in seriousness because of a particularly bad methodology that happens to hold sway at this moment in scholastic history. Theologians who support this approach will never be taken seriously when they attempt to make historical or scientific claims, so they simply undermine the Church's doctrine on the ultimate complementarity of faith and reason.

I had plenty of pomo theory in grad school, and I loved the sense of freedom it gave me to play with the text. One of which I published has a particularly regretable line. I know see so much of the time I spent in such thought as wasted, in one sense (that I gave any credence to such balderdash). However, maybe that background can be of some use in combatting such fuzzy thinking in my future studies.

I always had a sense that Derrida was attempting to turn critical analysis into its own art form, not in the sense that all writing is an art, but in the sense that it compares to poetry or fiction in a similar regard—maybe an envy of the poet's pen.

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism]

Friday, March 09, 2007

I'm so proud.

COPS recently aired two shows filmed here in Boise. I didn't see either of them. It turns out that at least one of the incidents took place a few blocks from my house. Another incident took place in one of the larger parks not far from here. I had no idea I lived in such a rough part of town. (Actually, it's a very nice older neighborhood.)

Read more in our local paper.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

This one goes in the sidebar!

The folks at Alive and Young are proposing a new program based on Neighborhood Watch.

I just know I want to see more of these posted around our diocese.

The Gargoyle Code

I meant to post about Fr. Dwight's sensible comments concerning bad liturgy (also taken up by the Roving Medievalist and Andrew at Unam Sanctam). Alas, I was too busy and never got around to it.

Fr. Dwight has started a project reminiscent of The Screwtape Letters (albeit from a more Catholic perspective), the Gargoyle Code. Good stuff!

[Technorati tags: Christianity, Catholic, Catholicism, href="">Church History]

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Banned in China

Turns out, I've managed to offend the PRC. My blog has been banned in China. I'm guessing the criteria for banning are not very stringent. Check to see if your blog has been banned in China!

(HT to Elliot)