Archive for February, 2010

Closing ranks in the Church – Part III

25/02/2010

Following up on the previous post about the Church being anything but catholic (universal), or according to Pope Benedict a “synthesis” it is again witnessed in his willingness, or, perhaps desire is more accurate term to allow only groups that he agrees with into the Church.

This is seen in the new translation of the Roman Missal. This is best illustrated in the new changes to the consecration. In the current Mass, the priest when consecrating the cup says “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.” In the Tridentine Mass at the same moment he says “Hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei, novi et aeterni testamenti mysterium fidei:qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum” (for this is the chalice of my Blood of the new and everlasting testament:the mystery of faith: which for you and for many will be shed unto the remission of sins).

Without getting into intense theological debates, as to who Christ died for be it, all Christians, all humanity (regardless of religious belief), and the consequences of his Death and Resurrection and the salvation that brings and to who, I regretabbly have neither the knowledge or ability to engage in any of these debates, to change something so fundamental as the Mass to say the Christ’s death was only for many and not all seems to be totally antithetical to Christ’s teaching. Those who support it say that the accuracy of the translation is paramount and that there is no Hebrew word for “all”, as we would define it, so when the Hebrews said “all” they actually meant God. Thus, say modern scholars who support the incoming changes, “many” is a more accurate translation and in no way is meant to exclude people. Yet, that is essentially what the Church is doing despite what it says.

Fr Michael Ryan writing in America, the liberal Catholic magazine says that the new translations (of which pro multis is just one) says that Sacrosanctum Concilium “was not just the pet project of a party but the overwhelming consensus of the bishops of the world. Its adoption passed overwhelmingly: 2,147 to 4.” However Fr Ryan seems to be missing the point. The current line from the Curia is that the Council’s implementation of these documents is the issue, not the documents themselves. I do take issue with his criticism of Summorum Pontificum that Rome has led to the “endorsement, even encouragement, of the so-called Tridentine Mass”. This maybe so but it is right that the admittedly small group of people that are attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite should be able to freely attend this without difficultly.

Ryan continues noting that “the council also wisely made provision for times of experimentation and evaluation (S.C., No. 40)—something that has been noticeably missing in the present case.” This would be an excellent idea but how would it work. Would the bishops report back to Rome about how the priests/faithful recieve the new translations? Would Rome pay attention?

I do admire Ryan when he says that “it could also be a show of loyalty and plain good sense—loyalty not to any ideological agenda but to our people, whose prayer the new translations purport to improve, and good sense to anyone who stops to think about what is at stake here.” Translations like “and with your spirit”; “consubstantial with the Father”; “incarnate of the Virgin Mary”; “oblation of our service”; “send down your Spirit like the dewfall”; “He took the precious chalice”; “serene and kindly countenance,” where Ryan describes a talk he went to where “passages from the proposed new translation were soberly read aloud by the presenter (I remember especially the phrase from the first eucharistic prayer that currently reads ‘Joseph, her husband,’ but which in the new translation becomes ‘Joseph, spouse of the same virgin’, there was audible laughter in the room.”

He describes that the Church in South Africa implemented the new Missal early and that “The translations were met almost uniformly with opposition bordering on outrage.” He shows great pastoral sensetivity when he says “What if we just said, “Wait, not until our people are ready for the new translations, but until the translations are ready for our people”?” What Church is there without the laity?

Ryan points to Bishop Donald Trautman  and his attempts to slow down the implementation of the new missal as well as the substantial and easy to understand arguments against it. He is justifiably damming of the US bishops who Ryan says “abandoned their best pastoral instincts and in so doing gave up on the best interests of their people.” Ryan ends with an appeal for a period of consultation with the local bishop which I somehow think won’t occur, and even if it does it will only delay the inevitable introduction of these clumsy, awkward texts.

In a counterpoint to Ryan’s article, Fr Peter Stravinskas supports the new translations. He says that “Ideology, it seemed, had taken precedence over accuracy.” He says that after the Second Vatican Council he assisted in the translation of what is now called the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite and that he was stunned to see that “The goal was to capture the general meaning of the text, rather than a faithful rendering of a rich and historically layered Latin prose. I tried to work within these parameters, but I found it difficult to do and still remain true to the original text. My translations were evidently unsatisfactory because, upon submitting them, I was politely but firmly uninvited from serving on the commission.”

He describes how the English translations that were approved in the period after the Council were one of the most “egregious” of all the translations. He says that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments published “Liturgiam Authenticam setting forth a coherent philosophy of translation. The document called for revised translations in keeping with these norms and the establishment of an oversight committee, Vox Clara, to ensure the fidelity of future translations.” Stravinskas says that “present efforts are precisely seeking to reclaim ‘the great vision of the council’s’ constitution.” He goes on to say that “So much of what I have witnessed or had described to me by eyewitnesses has been nothing shy of a betrayal of the council’s great vision and, in my judgment, largely responsible for the rapid emptying of the pews.”

This opinion is common in some Church circles, that there needs to be a restatement of the traditional doctrines and then the (Western, Central European and North American) people will come flooding back to the pews. There is no discussion in the debate on the increased wealth in these parts of the world and thus when people’s material desires are met, however shallow and unfulfilling they might be, many people see no need to attend Church and worship the Divine. There are naturally other issues at stake such as the French Revolution and the Enlightenment being seen, almost universally, as the unquestioned zenith of Western, perhaps even world, thought and a light to be shone on the darkness of other continents and peoples who still see fit to think of the world around them and the possibility of the life to come, whatever that might be.

Stravinskas continues arguing that the new translations are just one example of an attempt to make “the sacred mysteries palpable.” And while those more attuned to Fr Ryan’s point of view have an argument, let us not forget the excesses that can exist on that side of those on the liturgical debate.

There are some simple measures that do not need to involve committeees or senior offices in the Roman Curia that would be extremely effective and not sacrifice the true meaning of the liturgy and the teachings of Jesus. Stravinskas is correct when he says that ” a few observers have noted that much of the liturgical change that occurred after the council—both officially sanctioned as well as in explicit violation of church law—would have been unthinkable to the council fathers.”

The new translations adhere rigourously to the literal translation of the original texts and not to the pastoral instincts that should always guide the Church. It is this legalism that is coming back. I am not against rules, far from it, but there seems to be a gap between what Jesus said and what the Church says and I can only hope that such a gap becomes less wide and not more.

Iesus ora pro nobis

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Partisanship and the congressional system

18/02/2010

TIME on the stimlus or ARRA says that “what makes the bill’s success hard to judge is that it was oversold. Before the stimulus was passed, a report from President Obama’s economic advisers predicted that the bill would ensure that the unemployment rate would remain at 8% or below. By that estimate, the bill looks like a failure. A few months ago, the unemployment rate hit 10%; currently it is 9.7%.” While all of that is true it is difficult to discount that Congress. despite there being the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, it still took effort to pass it! There’s a time for checks and balances and then sometimes there just isn’t!

Ideology and civility

12/02/2010

The “conservative” Dr Andrew Sullivan draws a comparison between the upcoming United Kingdom General Election and the context in which elections are set. He says that the atmosphere in which elections are run are increasingly poisonous. He says that there is so little difference between the two main parties that the reasons for this acrominy is almost baffling.

Yet it is percisly the reason why there is so little difference that there is so much attention on the personality and style of each party leader. It is the death of ideolgy that has caused exactly this kind of news-lite to emerge and pass itself off as news, the media is of course partly to blame for faciliating all of this.

Dr Sullivan does not seem to understand that the current climate   in American poltics is perhaps the least worse option, although there could of course by more substantive policy discussion, and no, I’m not referring to Sarah Palin’s “book”.

The death of ideology in the European Union and perhaps the European continent (not that there’s too much of a difference between those two these days) brings us the punishment of the Blair’s,  Sarkozy’s and Merkel’s and Clinton’s of  the world, instead of the known that is the Thatcher’s, and Mitterand’s. 

Save us from the Third Way and the horrors of triangulation!

Liberalism’s “morality”

07/02/2010

In The Irish Times commentary on the behaviour of the wife of the First Minster of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson there is the typical liberal surprise with the words “astonishing” being tossed about. However, in the article riddled with with usual liberal nonsense like “She always got what she wanted”.

The summary is, as the Times puts it:

“Robinson, at 59, has an affair with a 19-year-old, young enough to be her grandson. She uses her friends to bankroll him in setting up the Lock Keeper’s Inn, a wonderful facility beside the lovely Lagan. Then the relationship goes sour. Perhaps the handsome Kirk McCambley wants out of the relationship. Robinson, it seems, doesn’t. She is affronted. She retaliates, stinging like a tarantula, demanding the money back, thinking she has put McCambley in his place but in fact wrecking her own life, possibly destroying her husband Peter’s political career – the jury’s still out on that – and creating a situation where the foundations of Parliament Buildings at Stormont are rocking. Terrifying, a Northern Ireland Shakespearian tragedy unfolding, with some added comedy – because of Iris Robinson.”

After the paper reports her attempted suicide in the same article it goes on the mention, perhaps unfairly that Iris Robinson   has some particularly strong views on homosexuality. The article mentions that:

“there are others, too, in this very Christian place of Northern Ireland who are unforgiving — mainly because through her career Iris has been such an unforgiving and ruthless woman herself. On the radio talkshows the Bible is frequently quoted, some by gay callers who note that while the Old Testament suggests death for homosexual activity it does the same for adultery. (Leviticus, just in case you’re looking for the reference.) People know their bible up here. Iris’s attack on gays and the “abomination” of homosexuality and her belief that she is one of God’s anointed comes back to haunt her. People wonder is her downfall related to some form of revenge by the gay community.”

There is the obvious, and just, reference to her hypocrisy and that she should be held to the same standars that she judges homosexuals to be (in this case it would seem that that that point of reference is Leviticus, which doesn’t take a forgiving line on adultery). However there is also the quiet undertone that all morality is should be done away with in this perfect world of individual responsibility that we live in!

When in fact what we really need is some consistency in our actions and speech as opposed to getting rid of morality altogether, as if that were even possible, let alone desirable!

Stirrings in Iran

05/02/2010

There are esentially two options that I can currently think of that make sense when dealing with the situation in Iran. The first is to leave the current regime in power in the belief/hope (depending on your information) that it will either:

1) stay in power and crush the reform movement
2) stay in power and refrom itself to accomadate the reformists
3) stay in power until it gets overthrown

The other main option is to support the refom movement in which:

1) it will share power because the current regime reformed itself
2) it will come to power because the current regime collapsed
3) it will not come to power at all due to the fact that the current regime managed to defeat it

Now assuming that forceable “regime change” is not on the table – and I really hope it isn’t – that’s not to say that some aren’t still advocating it as an option.

Commenting on the, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass’s comments about overthrowning the Iranian regime, Dr Stephen Walt studies the underlying assumptions that Haass uses for his arguement. Walt says that Haass “assumes that anything would be preferable to what we have now”

Walt makes the vital point that “Haass simply cannot imagine leaving well enough alone, and letting Iran’s own people determine their own political future. A hands-off approach is not an endorsement of the clerics or the brutal behavior of the Revolutionary Guards; it is merely recognition that further meddling on our part might be counterproductive.”

Nobel laureate Dr Shirin Ebadi, said at a recent talk in London, that the best thing to do was to lift sanctions and don’t give the regime the ability to blame “the West” for the postion it is in. She also said that this would help the people of Iran. However, it is important to bear in mind that she has “not been back to Iran since the country’s disputed June election” . While this does not mean that she is out of the loop, equally there is naturally a greater chance that she is not quite as informed as she could be and this should be borne in mind. Yet, there is little policy makers can do but pay attention to her as she is essentially all we have to go on. Foreign Policy, makes it interesting to note that “crowds in various locations across the country shout “Death to the supreme leader,” and reform clerics who had previously insisted that the system remain untouchable now call for free elections, free media, and freedom of speech and assembly.”

However when I asked Dr Ebadi about the Green Movement  and how cohesive it is there was no real answer to it. Therefore, to support something that seems to by united only by its desire to get rid of the current regime seems dangerous or at the very least requires much more study. Having said that Ebadi said that “‘You cannot do business with the regime.’ She is convinced that Iran’s leadership is not negotiating in good faith on the nuclear issue and would not abide by any agreement reached with the United States and the European Union.”

Gedmin says much the same thing, Ebadi “knows that the question of leadership is a sore spot for the Iranian opposition. No single figure has yet emerged who can galvanize the entire country and unite the disparate groupings that make up the opposition.”

Not only that but Walt says that “key members of the current opposition are strongly supportive of Iran’s nuclear program, which means that there is little reason to think that Iran will abandon its nuclear program even if there is some sort of regime change”. He doesnt define or explain what he means by “key members” though which leaves things a bit unclear – does the reform movement even have leaders?

Global warming and consensus

05/02/2010

Global warming has recieved a substantial amout of press over the recent months, especially in light of the controversy at the University of East Anglia. Walter Russel Mead in a post in the American Interest makes the excellent point saying how global warming activists “lectured everyone about the overwhelming nature of the scientific evidence” when in fact, “the IPCC’s claims that the rainforests were going to disappear as a result of global warming are as bogus and fraudulent as its claims that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. It seems as if a scare story could grab a headline, the IPCC simply didn’t care about whether it was reality-based” He makes the point that not only did they want to stop global warming the campaigners “got into this mess because they had a deeply flawed political strategy. They were never able to develop a pragmatic approach that could reach its goals in the context of the existing international system.” So they envisioned a totally new world political order where world problems could be solved at groups like the UN – laughable!

Mead carries on saying that even if there was world peace and lambs and lions lying down together and a world treaty was agreed to “countries would cheat, either because they chose to do so or because their domestic systems are so weak, so corrupt or so boththat they simply wouldn’t be able to comply.” The excellent anolgy he uses to great effect: “the global political system isn’t capable of producing the kind of result the global warming activists want. It’s like asking a jellyfish to climb a flight of stairs; you can poke and prod all you want, you can cajole and you can threaten. But you are asking for something that you just can’t get — and at the end of the day, you won’t get it.”

Crucially Mead suggests “New leadership might help, but everything these two agencies have done will now have to be re-checked by independent and objective sources.” However, part of the problem was that so many people bought into the hype, with the icecaps floating past us by lunchtime tomorrow and the last polar bears being stuffed in the local museum by next Tuesday. There was no “academic oversight” or self correction to the rest of us, with so many people saying that it might not be as bad as the public were made to believe simply because there was a certain line to follow and those that didn’t where cast out, deemed heretical to the movement and could no longer worthy of the name of calling themselves true academics, simpy because they questioned the prevailing winds.

On a broader point, maybe its just me but is that not what academia is all about? Just because the neoliberals and the Left are running the world and have created a new “consensus” doesn’t mean that we all MUST follow it, or even that it is a good consensus. Indeed, those who disagree have a duty (when was the last time you heard that word?) to challenge the “consensus” for the good of us all.

2010 midterms

04/02/2010

With regard to the upcoming mid terms, it looks as if President Obama will loose seats in both Houses, the only question is just how many.

Concentrating on the Senate, 34 Senators are up for re-election, 18 Republican and 16 Democratic. The GOP needs to pick up 11 seats to secure a majority.

Safe Democratic seats; Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington

Safe Republican seats; Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah

With Dodd (D-CN) and Dorgan (D-ND) not seeking re-election the GOP could pick of North Dakota without too much bother, and if they nominate the right person, Connecticut is doable as well.

Toby Harnden says that Arkansas, Nevada (if the Dems lose Reid it would be more than just a number – Senate Majority Leader is no small fry, massive PR coup for the GOP). Colorado according to Harnden is another possible GOP gain, while Delaware looks like it might turn red under the right circumstances which looks possible in the candidature of Mike Castle

Illinois, Harnden says, due to the the Blagojevich fiasco, the Burris fiasco, and a strong GOP candidate in the person of Mark Kirk mean that the GOP could just do it. That only leaves Pennsylvania with Joe Sestack from the Left and Pat Toomey from the Right and that’s not mentioning California but the Dems couldn’t possibly lose there could they?

If they won all of the above currently Democratic seats, Republicans would still have to also hold New Hampshire, Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio and Missouri, all of which have degrees of vulnerability for them.

That would leave them with 49 seats to the Democrats’ 51.But what if Joe Lieberman (I-CN) flipped to the Republican party?