Friday, October 30, 2009

"Oh Anglicans, come and walk with us!"

Pope Benedict did beseech.

A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Anglican looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Anglican winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the liberal bed.

... and don't forget to bring your stuff.

Like your choirs.

And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

He did?! Cool!

Maureen Dowd presents Exhibit A in her evidence against Pope Benedict:
"In 2004, the cardinal who would become Pope Benedict XVI wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners, resisting any adversarial roles with men and cultivating 'feminine values' like 'listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.'"

Really?! Did he send one to Maureen with an invitation to go to confession?

Where can I get a copy of this?

I like Benedict more and more every day lately.

No, it turns out he didn't.

"[W]omen should be present in the world of work and in the organization of society, and that women should have access to positions of responsibility which allow them to inspire the policies of nations and to promote innovative solutions to economic and social problems."


"It is appropriate however to recall that the feminine values mentioned here are above all human values: the human condition of man and woman created in the image of God is one and indivisible."


Never mind, I still like him.


It's that time of year, so I thought some ruminations on the goings-on on the other side of the mirror of reality might not be amiss.

Other people are doing it:
Exorcist shares past experiences with demonic possession

I have often thought that there seems, at least in the way most people practice the faith, two kinds of Catholicism. What I have arbitrarily designated "The Rules" and "Spooky Catholicism".

Of course, a balanced Catholic lives his life according to The Rules because he knows that Spooky Catholicism is real. This is the correct way of looking at it. The supernatural really actually exists in the really real world and therefore things like the difference between good and evil is not merely the subject of dry academic debate but an urgent and immediate reality to be contended with daily.

The reality of the supernatural is something that seems quite difficult for modern people to understand. And this despite the vast and growing proliferation of the occult in popular culture, which seems odd.

As you know, I have just finished reading a series of very dumb teenager vampire romance novels. (Yes, I enjoyed them ... sort a weird way.) One of the things that made them dumb was the fact that the authoress, Stephanie Meyer, did not seem to understand the difference between the natural and the supernatural. She regularly referred to her vampire and werewolf characters as being part of the supernatural world, but then said that tests had revealed that they had a different number of chromosomes in their cells from humans.

She indicated that the change from being a natural human to a supernatural vampire was merely a physiological change, the vampire "venom" (good grief!) would work its way though the body via the bloodstream re-writing the person's DNA to give them super-powers. (No, it really wasn't very well thought out, but that's not why all the teenyboppers are reading it.) And that was it, really, no more to it than that.

I suspect the banality, the flat-universe quality, of her books is a result of Stephanie Meyer's Mormonism, which does not even try to address the issue of "where does the universe come from". Mormonism also doesn't understand or acknowledge the difference between the supernatural world and the natural world. In Mormonism, the gods are more or less just humans with superpowers, and no one ever notices that the question "Who or what is the Prime Mover" is never asked.

At least with Buffy's vampires, there was a supernatural exchange of "souls" and the vampired person would become, essentially, possessed by an incorporeal demonic creature. (This system often broke down in Buffy, but that was the idea). In the Buffyverse, there are any number of "demons", "gods", "oracles" and assorted representatives of classical, pre-Christian and extra-Christian entities of varying degrees of supernaturalness (though perhaps significantly, never any angels. In all of Buffy, I think God only got a mention once or twice). And as the series progressed the rules about them seemed to shift according to the needs of the plot.

I note, however, that in Buffy, and even more later in Angel, the "demons" were again just a different kind of natural being. In Angel, there were actually different "species" of demons who were just modified humans and the damage they could do was not moral damage to a person's soul, but physical damage according to the potency of their super-powers. Plus, you could kill them with a gun or a sword. So ... you know.

It all gets a little fuzzy, really. It's not like I was really looking for theological consistency in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I believe that Harry Potter has solved the literary problem of the supernatural by more or less proposing that the wizards are a different species from the regular humans. A species that can naturally manipulate natural "forces" and that magic is essentially just another physical force like electricity. Again, this kind of breaks down in practice during the course of the books (which I haven't read), but that seems about the gist again. Once again, the modern occult writer does not seem to know what the supernatural really is.

I have noted several times that the universe accepted by the sci-fi writers is dualistic, that there is a distinct split between the physical and the incorporeal, the old mind-body split, but still no actual supernatural. Despite all the story lines of people exchanging bodies with each other and "ascending to a higher plane of existence" and whatnot, all of this is still strictly within the realm of the natural, the physical, the scientifically recordable. It's really just Cartesianism with special effects.

Nothing in, for example, Star Gate SG1's ideas about "ascended Ancients" was remotely supernatural. You just spent a few decades meditating and, pow! you got a pretty, glowy, kind of ghostly-looking body that could fly and control weather or whatever and live in some other "higher plane" that was, essentially, just another "dimension". This seemed to be as close as the sci-fi world could get to the idea of something "outside nature".

Whether we like it of not, we live in a culture that has, for 400 years or more, been rejecting the existence of the supernatural. And now that we're looking for it again, we don't know it when we see it and think we see it when we really don't.

I think that our modern obsession with the occult is not in fact a result of an innate human fascination with the supernatural. Or perhaps the purveyors of the occult pop-culture are so unimaginative that what they are peddling is merely naturalism dressed up in sparkly CGI costumes.

As a result, we Catholics seem to have a hard time understanding what the actual supernatural is. We have popular Catholic literature that talks about things like birth, and sunsets and butterflies as "miraculous". Well, it might be a poetic way of speaking about how great nature is, but it is misleading too. Natural things are not, by definition, miraculous. The supernatural is not just the natural with super-powers.

We really have a hard time with the idea of something that is real, has a will and an intellect and the ability to do things in the natural world, but no body at all. A spirit, in the strictest sense.

We have a heck of a time understanding the thing about God being outside, above and preceding time and space.

Now that the Church has more or less given up talking about the supernatural and continues to justify its existence based on its record of social work projects in the third world, we Catholics have fallen into the habit of thinking naturalistically. So much so, I think, that things like the "Catholic charismatic movement" have sprung up in reaction.

People who are interested in religion are really interested in the Spooky parts. They want to know about the grand movements of Heaven and Hell, of angels and demons and the Great War between them. They want to know that their own moral struggles are about something greater, taller and more grand than global warming or the dangers of smoking. Something better, that is, than what the secular world offers.

It's the real reason movies and books like the Da Vinci Code are so wildly popular. Why Hollywood always dresses its pretend nuns to look more like real nuns than the real nuns have looked in 40 years. And why the Godfather movies all have depictions of the brocade and velvet, pointed arches, gold-curliqued and marble-columned Catholicism of the pre-Vatican II era. No one who is looking for the real, Spooky, Supernatural version of religion wants a priest to dress in a polyester poncho and sing folk songs.

There's The Rules, yes, and we give intellectual assent to the doctrines of the Faith, (which is what "The Rules" is shorthand for.) But what are The Rules guiding if not the supernatural life of the soul?

What is it all for if there's no Spooky?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

They had a plan

which, frankly, they botched spectacularly.

But never mind. At least there's more BSG.

More! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ok, so let's see if I've got this straight,

Everyone who holds "conservative," that is, traditionally Christian, beliefs about sex and all that, is a "bigot".

My Church is not a safe haven for bigots ...I was hoping that the Church’s antipathy to female and openly gay priests would, in time, weaken and dissolve. Now instead, it seems, a whole lot of bigoted reinforcements are arriving to galvanise those more unpalatable aspects of Roman Catholic doctrine. Should I stay in a club that would welcome these people as members?

Am I getting it right?


isn't that,


kind of


Diogenes grins evilly:
there's no question but that it's got the right people pouting. Across the board, among Catholics, Anglicans, and neutral spectators, hostility varies inversely with orthodoxy.

A fave returns

I really liked this video someone made of the escape from New Caprica put to the Hendrix version of All Along the Watchtower. I guess it violated six ways of copyright laws, so it was taken down and I had to replace it on my BSG playlist with another, less cool version. But it's back. For now.

It always makes me think the same thing. Why on earth didn't they keep Pegasus and let the Cylons smithereen Galactica, which, at the beginning of the attack on Caprica, was ready to be mothballed as a museum, and by the end of the series was literally falling apart at the seams? Pegasus was beautiful and shiny and new and sparkly and I bet way bigger and faster and with meaner guns and rockets and stuff, and probably even nukes. Adama was down to, what? eight by the time they get to the Temple of Five planet?

I realise Pegasus was cursed and evil and everything, and the ship herself had to plunge to a firey self-sacrificial death to atone for the evilness of its previous commander, but,

at least she ran. And didn't have to be held together with Cylon superglue.

Oh well. I suppose they just couldn't change the name of the show in the middle.

...and yes, I realise that I like this show waaay too much.

Too weird? Not in Toronto!

I saw a guy on the train the other day doing a cube. He struck me as someone I wouldn't really want to meet. Had an odd, pastey look about him. Like he spent too much time in basements examining wriggly things under dim lights.

But it wasn't the strangest thing seen recently on Rome transit.

I have it on good authority that someone, who looked mentally competent, was seen on a bus reading L'Osservatore Romano.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bad Vestments

Just discovered a new website after our own hearts.

Bad Vestments

Got bad vestment pics?

Send em in.

And he has done a bit on one of NewChurch's most popular features:

Creepy Giant Puppets.

They're big, they're bad, they frighten small children and they're coming to a NovusOrdinary parish near you.

It's amazing how many hits you get putting "creepy giant puppets" into Google.

Try it.


Wait, what was I supposed to be working on?
But, guys, it's the Tablet.

Surely rather than using their editorial to promote Tony Blair, who remains one of the world's leading anti-life/anti-family politicians, The Tablet should be briefing its readers to oppose the Brown government's anti-life legislative push expected in November - promoting access to abortion for schoolchildren without parental knowledge and consent?

John Smeaton's post about a Tablet editorial comparing Tony Blair with Newman, reminds me of something funny. I read that a nice young English priest admitted that in his spare time, he amuses himself by shredding, one page at a time, all the issues of The Pill he can get his hands on.

"It's tedious, but it's God's work," he is reported to have said.

"Impartial, eh?"


At the beginning of this debate, the moderator said that Stephanie would be representing the "pro-life" side and that Dr. Kluge was representing the "pro-abortion" side. There was a brief (and quite good natured) roar and some ribbing over the "slip".

He was supposed to use the accepted euphemism, you see. Please! it's "pro-choice".

Now, here's something interesting.

Some time ago, the editor of the Vatican's derivative leftist rag daily newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Gian Maria Vian, said, with apparently a perfectly straight face, that President Obama, because of his comments at Notre Dame University had revealed to his (Vian's) satisfaction that he (Obama) was "not pro-abortion, but really was merely pro-choice".


let me explain something to you, Mr. Editor of the Vatican's newspaper.

Let's say, to take things out of the emotion-riven issue of abortion for a moment, that we are talking about being pro-bank-robbery. Let us imagine, for a moment, that there is a significant political movement to legalise bank robbery on the grounds that to criminalize it makes it unsafe for all concerned, bank robbers and security guards, staff and bank customers. Part of the political work of this movement has been to change the "tone" of the debate, and to re-frame it. Instead of talking about the victims of bank robbery, (who, after all are mostly just already insanely wealthy bank shareholders and insurance companies) they believe that the debate should focus instead on the rights of bank robbers.

They have created the expression "pro-choice" to describe the position that they hope will become accepted in the debate. To be "pro-choice" on bank robbery is to say that while one would oneself not necessarily wish to rob a bank (having, strangely, some vestigial Judeo-Christian moral qualms about private property), they do not feel it is right to impose their personal beliefs on others who might want to make the "choice" to supplement their income in this way.

So, being "pro-choice" is not the same thing as actually supporting bank robbery. You can be against bank robbery and still pro-choice. It's a brilliant political ploy, giving people a nice-sounding reasong to support people's "rights" and to be generally fair-minded and calm, and yet, still be seen as moral people who would never directly support something bad.

The public eats it up, because it is really just totally complimentary and wonderfully self-congratulatory and there is nothing the public of our time likes better than getting something for nothing.

But, let us examine the idea of being pro-choice on bank robbery a little more closely, shall we?

If you say that you are in favour of someone being allowed to "choose" to do something, are you making a comment on the moral admissibility of that thing? Are you saying that bank robbery should be legal because it is itself morally innocuous? If you say that people should be allowed to choose to rob a bank you are saying that your own moral qualms about it are not absolute. A pro-choice person will never be able to say that robbing a bank, a thing that violates the rights of the person to protect his property, is inherently immoral: wrong. He can only ever say that he personally does not like bank robbery, as he does not like brussels sprouts.

Indeed, to say that someone ought to have the "right" to rob a bank, is to say that there is such a right and that a person may exercise it at will. One has said at least, that there is no real moral objection to bank robbery. It is fine. It's just not my personal thing.

A person who is pro-choice on bank robbery thinks there is no moral objection to it and that it is a right that should be protected under the law.

He is pro-bank-robbery.

Get it?

So, when the moderator said at the beginning of Miss. Gray's debate, that her opponent would be taking the "pro-abortion" side, he was speaking factually.

But in our times, the facts, reality, are biased.

Friday, October 23, 2009

At about noon tomorrow,

I will have been living in Italy exactly one year.

Life is always going to be weirder than you expect.

No point making plans.

Well, yes...but...

John Allen comments on the Anglican thing, that those who like the endless tea parties of the ecumenical movement don't have to worry about that Anglican schism actually, you know, healing or anything.

When the dust settles, the centuries-long breach between Rome and Canterbury will remain intact.

Well, yes, but the point is that there isn't going to be anyone left on the other side.

In some reports, the move was touted as a bold gambit to end the schism that began with the English Reformation in the 16th century -- a dubious bit of spin, given that the actual number of Anglicans likely to sign up for one of these ordinariates will almost certainly be quite small.

...well, yes. But really the reason for this is that the number of Anglicans is also pretty small.

Church of England:
Average Sunday attendance in 1992 was 1,122,600, or 2.3 per cent of the population; down from 2.4 per cent or 1,137,000.

As someone at the Anglican press conference on Tues pointed out, the whole thing is going to be more or less moot in 20 years. The Anglican Communion will be no more.

The only question is going to be, who gets the big pointy buildings in the end? The Government? or the Islams?

Just please, please, don't give them to the English Catholic Bishops, mmkay?

Dear Crazy Anti-Nuns

This is why you have no vocations and your communities are dying out.

Nun Volunteering as Abortion Clinic Escort in Illinois


Sometimes you get lucky

Interesting day today. Met and had lunch with Robert Moynihan, who introduced me to this lady

Sr. Margarita is an American, 88 years old, and a member of the Religious Teachers Filippini, an order of active sisters founded to teach religion, which is actually, surprisingly, a rather rare charism.

And she's working to get Pius XII canonised.

You see these sisters around Rome quite a bit, with their little bonnets. But mostly they wear the modified bonnet. Not Sr. Margarita. I remember seeing her for the first time on the bus, wearing the full gear.

And this lovely bonnet with the pleated edges.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I wonder, has anyone thought to ask her?

We could really use someone in this Church who still knows ladies ought to wear hats to Mass.

I'm not the only one suggesting it

So, Anglicans, how about just a straight-up trade: You can have all the people in the Catholic Church who believe in "equality" in sex and marriage and priesthood and who hold the idea of a "woman's right to choose" as her paramount right,

...and we'll take all your Christians.

Welcome New Liturgical Movement Readers

thanks for the link Shawn.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It has just crossed my mind

...another advantage of the new Anglican provisions,

My chances of marrying an Anglican vicar have just risen exponentially.

I've always wanted to be the vicar's wife and live in a nice English parish and, basically, live in a Barbara Pym novel.

Musical interlude

Now, here's a dilemma.

Hate ABBA,

love Madness...



But what about the liturgy?

More from the Anglican press conference:

It was also interesting to note that the greater part of the Vatican correspondents from the secular press (NYT, ABC, etc) really didn't seem to know what to ask. They were more or less at sea without an accepted "angle" that could bring in one or more of their religious hobby-horses. "Yes, but what has this got to do with homosexuals, married priests and womynpriests?" ....yaaaaaawwwwwnnn... Oh, sorry, were y'all asking something?

I think mine was the second to last question asked, and I was thanked by AB Di Noia for bringing up the liturgy.

I pointed out that the Anglos have a multiplicity of uses, what with the BCP, the Book of Alternative Services, high church stuff, low church stuff, broad church...and we have the Novus Ordo and the Extraordinary Form even just in the Latin rite, what was going to be the accepted form of liturgy for these envisioned Anglican-rite Catholic Masses?

He told us that while this Apostolic Constitution was only the beginning and things like the liturgy was still to be hammered out, the use that had already been established was going to be the groundwork.

He held up a copy of the Book of Divine Worship and said that this was probably going to form the ground work for the new practices.

I take it from my friends who pay attention to these things that this is good news.

Good News from Rome, I'm on Vatican TV. Cool.

As a friend of ours said, this is probably the largest and most significant act of Christian reunification since the Big Split. It also means that in four years, Benedict has accomplished more for Christian unity than his predecessor did in nearly 30. (To be fair, as Archbishop Di Noia said, this is really because of how profoundly things have been changing just recently.) My friend also commented that it is going to drive the ecumaniacs into apoplexy.

Well, yes. And it has to be admitted, that watching our enemies' heads spinning around and exploding is one of the consolations.

That faint popping sound you hear...

There's quite a bit more to be said about this.

Of course, probably the most predictable lines are already being drawn. The left wasted no time in getting the memes and themes rolling, calling it "divisive"

Cindy Wooden was hot off the mark, being the first called upon for a question at yesterday's press conference: "Are you worried at all that this is going to be the end of the ecumenical movement?" (Well, Cindy, since you have put it so interestingly, let's examine that question. What, precisely, is the "end" of the ecumenical movement? Is it to continue to produce endless unreadable reports on the warmth of our mutual handshakes?)

The Globe and Mail, taking up the accepted theme:An embrace that divides

But it's mostly just sour grapes. They're just miffed that their hippie-era crusade has failed so manifestly. Pay it no mind.

I'll be busy today. You may talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hope you're not forgetting our novena to St. Anthony

(bumped up)

A nice young theology graduate student friend of ours had his computer stolen last night on the train and is praying a novena to St. Anthony to either get it back or somehow come up with the money to buy a new computer.

All prayers from readers far and wide would be greatly appreciated.

He said that if the means come to have a computer to work on to finish his master's thesis, he will make a pilgrimage either to Padua or to Lisbon in thanksgiving.

(This post will be bumped up for nine days.)

Vatican Police Block Entrance to Trid Mass at St. Peter's

Yep. Not making it up.
"As it was posted, we arrived exactly/precicely at 9:28, but we found a barrier 20 meters from the chapel guarded by no less than 12 "Sanpietrini" and gendarmes(security men) and they all repeated that the ceremony was for a private group and inaccessible (to anyone else). Only after an altercation(argument) with them, accompanied by the threat of being expelled from the temple, was it finally permitted to apporach. Two ladies with veils on their heads attempted to approach, but were told that the "Ordinary form" was going to be celebrated at the Altar of the Chair.

The chapel was overflowing, and we formed a group outside the chapel in "no man's land" between the cordon of security which was blocking us, and the chapel.
It was guarded by 2 policemen, 3 "Sanpietrini" and 1 policeman in street clothes. Little or no access for the ordinary faithful walking in St. Peter's Basilica. They also put up curtains, so that anyone else in Saint Peter's could not see the ritual and be drawn to the sublime beauty of the liturgy.

Throughout the Mass, those outside the group who approached to attend were turned away. Music from the Ordinary form tried to drown out the Mass, and those from far away tried to watch the Mass, as if it were a distant mirage."

What to do on your day off

My apartment doesn't have central heat which is less of a problem here than it was in north west England but I haven't got round to buying a plug-in yet and so, to keep warm, I made bread on Sunday afternoon. Turned out pretty well.

Living in Italy, you can get most of the things you're used to having in North America, and to an extent, even things from Britain. There are shops which specifically cater to foreigners living in Rome where you can get things that Italian's don't use or know about like Heinz ketchup, Lea and Perrin's, brown sugar, Tobasco sauce... For the equivalent of about eight dollars, you can even buy a tin of pumpkin pie stuff so you can have real pumpkin pie for thanksgiving.

And you can buy what the Italian's like to call "American bread" in most groceries. But the thing we have noticed with most of these Italian knock-offs of American and British stuff is that it is mostly aaaalmost but not quite exactly the same. There is just an odd quality to the bread, particularly, that is difficult to define. When you eat it it kind of goes sticky in your mouth. It's a little weird and makes you sort of wonder what they've done to it.

Best thing to do, I've found, is make your own.

Made me feel terribly domestic.

Fun with Politics

Marching, for various causes, is a popular weekend activity in Italy.

This Saturday, on the way somewhere else, we happened to run into this demonstration from our friends on the left. I had a hard time resisting the sudden urge to start yelling, "Che รจ un assassino di massa!"

I heard one of the

Carabinieri tell a German tourist, "It's an anti-racism protest". I believe I have commented elswhere that in today's political climate, the terms "anti-racism" and "anti-fascism" are journalistic euphemisms for "Communist". I told the German tourist not to be fooled: "It's a pro-communist demonstration, as you will see."

What really annoyed me, though, was that the damn commies had buggered up traffic and we had to walk all the way from the Ange to Largo Argentina. Grrrr... bloody commies!

Another popular political hobby is postering. In most places, one sees political posters only during election times. Not so Italy. Any old slow news day is a good day for postering. Today's offering made me laugh:

It's a reference to Zapatero's little game of sticking two-fingers up to the Vatican every chance he gets. It says, "Human-Phobia. Human rights to apes; life denied to children. Zapatero Planet of the Apes." Pretty good, I thought.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More on the SARS Flu Scare at Mass

Suggestions are coming in for new liturgical norms in the face of the growing threat of the Flu.

A working document has been forwarded to me from a small Canadian diocese that shall for the moment remain unnamed. A section from the small group discussion follows:
a) We share the Sign of Peace with those who are near us at Mass, except for those agoraphobic or Traditionalist people cowering behind the pillars, or curled up in the fetal position in the corner of the pews in the side aisle (and we often try to avoid those of our brothers and sisters who smell like a dumpster in mid-summer). We do this just before we receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord, and since most of us receive Communion on the hand, Lord knows what sort of germs and bacteria accompany the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This important element of the liturgy should not be omitted; well, we’ve heard from some people that it should be omitted and from others that it should never have been instituted in the first place, but you know that I’m not listening to any of “those people”, so since we are keeping it, how do we minimize the chance of spreading a deadly virus?

b) The Sign of Peace may be expressed with a bow, a wave, a smile, a feeble insipid hippie peace sign, various hip bumps or chest bumps, Snoopy’s “happy dance”, a full-on mouth kiss (if you are “in a loving, committed relationship” with the person next to you), or some other gesture.

the document notes:

...a diocesan committee now meeting with theologians at AST to develop a rationale from Scripture and Tradition to incorporate hand sanitizing as a liturgical gesture, perhaps in association with liturgical dance

Liturgical incorrectness

Prize for best liturgical use of a microphone goes to...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oh wait! I know this one! pick me! pick me!

Fr. Tim has opened a new institution of higher learning, apparently in central London.

Bachelor of Commonsense Honours Degree Examination

Rocket Science Level I (Faculty of drawing conclusions from empirical observation)
Answer question 1. (Three hours allowed)

1. Which of the following will be more effective in reviving Catholic faith and devotion in Britain today?

a) Arranging meetings to discuss the environment, climate change, the credit crunch, inclusion, exclusion, holism, and equality, discerning how best to downsize the Church's activity by closing parishes, and identifying the possibilities for lay ministry in priestless Churches, with people breaking into small groups to discuss their feelings about these important issues.

b) Vigorously promoting the traditional devotional life and magisterial teaching of the Church, and giving high profile support to all events that encourage and nurture faith in the Blessed Sacrament, and devotion to Our Lady and the Saints - not excluding devotion to relics of the same. (Without actually needing to break up into small groups.)

(Hint: it is not actually rocket science.)


Awful Report

I was just looking at the new Guttmacher report on abortion (no, I don't recommend it) and noticed something funny.

The URL:

No kidding.

Institutions of Italy

In Italy, there is a universal institution, similar in function to what the pub used to be in England.

Only faster.

The bar. What we in N. America would call a cafe.

Everyone starts the day with a cup of coffee and a bun, (they'll give you tea if you really want it) standing up at the bar (you can sit in most of them, if you want to, but no one ever does).

In most bars you can also re-charge the credit on your telefonino, buy a newspaper or lottery tickets, gum or smokes, a pop or a bottle of water for the treno. You pass the time of day with your fellow commuters and talk a little politics or sports.

Or you can take your coffee outside and enjoy the autumn sunshine.
Conviviality is the real heart of the Italian lifestyle.

Season of Mellow Fruitfulness in Central Italy

As I was waiting for the bus this morning, I happened to look across the street without my glasses on and thought,

what is that? Are those apples?


They're pomegranates. Neat huh?

This is the Via de Fiori, which gives its name to the neighbourhood, looking down towards the sea. All the streets are named after flowers. Mine is Vie delle Fresie (freesias). It's a nice neighbourhood, really, and close to the edge of town where the line between suburban and rural is blurred. Lots of single-family houses here with

well kept walled gardens, secret gardens with a bit of a mysterious air about them. Lemon and orange trees,

figs and bananas,

with masses of climbing purple bougainvillea, even during the hot season it was all green and lovely.

Very quiet at night. Just the crickets at night and in the morning, the roosters.

Oh Please, oh Pleeeeeeze! Just once...

So, just got back from the exciting and interesting press conference at the Sala Stampa.

There is one in every crowd, this time it was the ANSA lady, complete with screechy shrill voice:

"70,000 women die in unsafe illegal abortions in Africa every year..."

When she started, I have to admit that at that point, my mind drifted off momentarily to a little fantasy press conference I keep in my head in which the awful woman would be honest and say, "Doesn't the Church care about women?"

And just that one time at my fantasy press conference, my fantasy cardinal would reply, "No. The Church doesn't care about women. In fact, the Church hates women. Next question."

...and we'd see who falls of their chair laughing.

It would be HIGH-freakin-larious!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

St. Damien

There aren't many days in the year when I can really say I am unabashedly grateful to the Church.

Just once in a while.

Hollywood does it right:

I had always liked Fr. Damien de Veuster and admired beyond words what he did. But it was not until I saw this film that I really understood the heights he reached.


It's the end of peach season here in central Italy. We've been getting them from all over, Africa, Spain, Calabria, but all good things must give way to other good things (the carciofi are back in the shops, Yay!) and the peaches in the shops are looking kind of peaked lately. So it is time for

Peach preserves!

Yep, spent the best part of the day yesterday blanching, peeling, chopping and simmering. Honey and whisky peach preserves, to be exact. 13 jam-size jars. Distribution to friends will be on a how-nice-have-you-been-to-me-in-the-last-year basis.


8 pounds of peaches (you don't have to worry about the quality, just 8 pounds)
1 pound of white sugar
two cups honey
three cups whiskey
three teaspoons ground nutmeg
ten cloves
four lemons
tsp salt

a large heavy bottomed enamel or stainless steel pot.

Another large pot.

Jars with seal-able metal lids (always save jam jars, mayonnaise jars, pickle jars, etc. The ones with the plastic lids, however are not so good).

Blanch the peaches in boiling water. Which means boiling them for about ten minutes or until their flesh has become soft and slightly goopy to the touch. I did them in batches of about six to eight in the pot. When they've softened, plunge them into cold water. Peel the skin off (this should be easy, and was when my grandma did it, but each peach is different. Sometimes the skin came off easily, sometimes I had to use the potato peeler. Grandma would have known how to do it better. Alas.) and chop the peaches into 8ths.

Place in a saucepan with sugar, about 1/2 cup to a cup of peach pieces, honey, lemon juice, whiskey, cloves and nutmeg. Don't add water, since the heat and sugar will draw out the peach juice sufficiently to create a lovely (ie: heavenly) syrup. There are really no quantities given here, since it is all a matter of personal taste. Just work it out.

Allow to simmer over a low heat until the fruit is soft and the syrup is golden. This is about 1/2 an hour to 45 mins. Stir regularly, but carefully. Keep a lid on the pot until the mixture comes to a boil, but then uncovered and over a very low heat.

DO NOT allow the syrup to boil over. This means, don't put the peaches on to boil and then go watch TV or surf the net while you're waiting. Don't move away from the stove. Stand over it and watch it carefully. Trust me on this one.

If you have allowed the syrup to boil over, clean it up with a damp sponge and cloths IMMEDIATELY. Sugar syrup is easy to clean with wet cloths because unburnt sugar dissolves very quickly. But leaving it till later will mean the heat from the stove will burn the spills and create a burnt sugar disaster on your stove that will not come up without the aid of a blowtorch and industrial solvents. If you have spilled cooked sugar, you know this. If this is your first time using cooked sugar, there is probably nothing I can say that will sufficiently convey the horror of trying to get burnt sugar off the stove top and/or your favourite heavy-bottomed pot before your mother/wife/husband/mother-in-law sees the mess.

Be careful, also, with the boiling sugar mixture. Sugar boils at a much higher temperature than water and can seriously hurt you if you get it on yourself. My instructor in pastry chef school called boiling syrup "dessert napalm".

As a rule, keep the work area as clean as you can as you're working in it. Keep lots of wet cloths and sponges around, and keep the sink full of warm water. Wash the knife you use to cut the peaches regularly. Place the wooden spoon you use to stir the syrup in the same spot every time.

Without precautions, working with sugar syrup will mean that you, your hair, your clothes, the furniture, the floor, the walls and probably the cat, are liable to get very sticky, with little sticky spots being found for days. Wipe up spills the instant you make them, esp. off the floor where they can get tracked all over the house leaving annoying little sticky-patch landmines everywhere. Possibly the most annoying thing is to get sticky in your socks. Walking across the kitchen tiles: "stick-slap, stick-slap, stick-slap..." Ugh!

When the peaches are close to ready, prepare the jars.

I usually just wash them and the lids in warm soapy water, dry them very thoroughly with a paper towel and place the lids in a roasting pan and the jars on a cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to about 200 C. Pour a quantity of boiling water over the lids. Place the jars and the lids, with the water, in the oven for 15 minutes.

Allow the jars to cool enough so that you can touch the outsides without hurting yourself (if the jars are too hot, even the very hot sugar syrup will be too cold and they will crack...lost two of my best ones yesterday, and am v. annoyed). Do not touch the inside of the jars or the lids with your fingers.

Distribute the peach pieces, without syrup, into the jars with a spoon, leaving a little room at the top. With a clean ladle, pour in syrup to fill the jars to the very top.

Seal, and when they have cooled enough, wash the outsides of the jars carefully.

Label them and store in a cool dark place. As the mixture cools, the jars should automatically create a vacuum seal. This should keep everything inside from molding until the jar is unsealed. After that, the preserves have to be kept in the fridge.

If they last that long.


V. good with plain white yoghurt.

Let's hear it for the liturgical uses of communicable diseases!

Thanks Lord for letting the Episcopalians lead the way:
Bishop David A. Zubik wrote to Pittsburgh diocesan priests Oct. 2. "Liturgical practices are one of many encounters throughout the day that are capable of transmitting viruses."

I was in Toronto during the "SARS scare". It was exceedingly dumb. The AD of Toronto had issued a ban on receiving on the tongue so I stopped receiving at all, naturally.

I then went to the local Ukrainian Catholic parish where the only sign posted that was not written in Cyrillic was one that read, "The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy is not under the jurisdiction of the Latin ordinary of Toronto. The practices of receiving Communion in the Eastern Rites is perfectly hygenic and safe and we have no intention of changing it." Good enough for me.

"Someone suggested we eliminate the (sign of) peace, but a lot of people look forward to it, especially the young people," said the Rev. Bruce Nordeen, pastor at St. John's.
Actually, hated it when I was young too, but maybe I'm just weird.
"...Those uncomfortable receiving from the cup during the flu season should not feel obligated to do so," he wrote.
What about all the other times?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama Gets Nobel Prize: World Bursts Out Laughing

So, the Nobel committee has given its reasons:
They "attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."

He also "created a new climate in international politics." "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future".


See, I was talking about this the other day. It's all about self-identity and "visions" and things.

So, now that we have a world in which one can "self-identify" as any gender of your choice, that you can decide whether to be male or female or some other thing as yet unidentified by science; now that we have a world in which, for example, a poor black kid can grow up to be a rich white woman, Nobel Prizes are given out for having "visions".

Considering the loot involved, I think it's time for the rest of us to get visioning.

The world, I note, is rocking with laughter at the absurdity of it.

Really, when a White Liberal Guilt establishment like Saturday Night Live is mocking you, you've really hit bottom...
"I won it for not being George Bush. To be perfectly honest, this award was a complete surprise as I have only not been George W. Bush for nine months. But I am deeply honored none the less."

Friday, October 09, 2009

Media biases

Was at the Sala Stampa this afternoon. Took a little wander around. They've got this cool room

full of little cubicles where you can use the Vatican's computers or hook your own laptop up to the Vatican's internet. I'm betting there are a lot of 3rd world journalists who really need to make use of this.

I also noted that there was a shelf of mail boxes for certain privileged denizens of the Holy See Press Office.

If you're one of the big kids, you get your very own box.

Some day.

Wonder what he's going to say.

"[T]he greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion...Because if a mother can kill her own child - what is left for me to kill you and you kill me - there is nothing between."
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

Not by the colour of his skin, but by...

...well, turns out it is by the colour of his skin we judge a man.
"...The election of a black pontiff would 'send a splendid signal to the world' about the universal Church." Wilton Gregory, President of the US Bishops' Conference.

Sorry Dr. King.

Nobel Meme

So, I was at a press briefing with a v. nice Ghanaian Archbishop and, sitting in the back, was wondering with the the Zenit guy what the Nobel Prize committee could have been thinking of.

But this nice African seemed to put his finger right spot on the reason.

It's 'cause he's black, see.


So, after the meeting, I went to lunch with a friend and we worked out a list of other stuff they can give Obama prizes for.

Next year, in keeping with the theme, the Nobel Prizes will go to Barack Obama for

Peace - For his contribution to Changey Hope

and the following year, we can give it to him again, for

Peace - Hopey Change

Literature - for "Audacity of Hope"

Chemistry - for caring deeply about global warming

Physics - for walking on water

Economics - for improving the global economy by causing the US dollar to plummet

Moreover, we propose that in honour of the Greatness that is Obama, a new series of Nobel Prizes be established.

For racial reconciliation:
for being the world's first white man in a black man's body.

Come up with your own, and send them to The Nobel Prize committee.


Zach said (on facebook)

Another new Nobel Prize. The Not-Being-George-Bush Nobel Prize.

Zach comments:
"Here, President Obama, have the Nobel Peace Prize. Everyone will know you didn’t earn it, or do anything to deserve it, but you seem like a nice man, and well, we really hated your predecessor. So you get a special award just for not being him. Kind of the Miss Congeniality for world leaders...."

Falling off your chair laughing yet?

Relativism in Europe has Created Demographic Crisis: European Bishops

It's the European bishops talking about the evils of relativism.

Get it?

Oh come on. Don't be such sticks.

It's funny.

All the choice in the world,

...unless you disagree with us.

At least they said 'please'. So very Canadian.

Fool Britania

Who would have imagined, at the start of her reign, that it was all going to go as badly as this?

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Another place where Gothic rules. (One does get rather sick of the Baroque curliques and disembodied flying baby-heads.)

To get to the good bits in Perugia, as in many places in Italy, one has to go way way WAY up a very steep hill, to which the only roads are these terrifying switch-back affairs with precipitous death-drops scenic vistas at every turn on blind corners facing insane Ferrari-driving Italians.

(Scenic vista)

Fortunately, in Perugia, they have discovered that tourists will pay money to be taken up the hill in a thing like a Logan's Run monorail car. Plus a lot of escalators.

Once you get up there, it's worth the couple of quid.

There's gothic poritcoes...

13th century basilicas and fountains...

and architecture (with tourist accessories)

See those hooks on the wall? They are outside the palace of the local ruling duke. I was told they were used in the middle ages to stick the heads of criminals on.

Heh. Cool.

More fun with pigeons

And one of my all-time favourite Tom Lehrer's.

(Hi Fr. Dan!)

The Luggage Check Room

in the Perugia train station

time for a musical break

This was considered WILDLY anti-Catholic at the time...

Imagine what they would say now.

One of the cool kids now

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A “divine sign” of racial healing

I was in the same room as John Allen today.

I feel so privileged.

Without even showing up, Obama's a force at African Synod

So far, various African bishops have hailed the election of the first African-American President in U.S. history as:

• A potentially powerful new force for justice and good government across Africa;
• A “divine sign” of racial healing, in some ways a recapitulation of the Biblical story of Joseph;
• A potential herald of further breakthroughs down the line, such as the election of a black pope.

Whatever one makes of all this, it’s at least a different perspective than one often gets in Catholic circles in the United States, where attention is usually focused on Obama’s controversial stands on abortion and other life issues.

So, let me get this straight.

John Allen says it makes a nice change because the Africans talking about how great it is that Obama has been elected President because he's black...oops, sorry, because of his ethnic origin, I meant...of course.

Because back home, all anyone can ever blather on about is the man's policies.

Sheesh! What is it with American Catholics anyway?


Who cares about that stuff?!

You'd think, listening to them bang on about his 100 per cent rating from NARAL that a politician's stand on killing innocent people is more important than the colour of his skin.

Don't they know anything about modern politics?

Do you think it's because they didn't?

or are they tears of joy?

Co. Donegal was the only county in the country to vote No on Lisbon.

Unbelievable Accomplishments

The other day, an item came into the news. Kissinger (who, against all reason, is still with us; what is he now, a hundred and eighty?) talked to the Official Chinese news agency Xinhua about the "unbelievable accomplishments" of China's commies ver the past 60 years.

Like this do you mean?

Mgr James Lin Xili, bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang) died on 4 October at the age of 91. For his faith he spent 16 years in labour camps and in recent years, though ill and immobilised in bed, he was constantly under police surveillance.


It is not yet clear whether his body will be draped in the vestments of a bishop or whether the Church will celebrate the solemn funeral for an ordained priest. Bishop Lin has never been recognized as a bishop by the Religious Affairs Bureau.

Red Herrings

WASHINGTON -- Five key officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishops have excised a controversial passage from a public note on Catholic-Jewish dialogue issued in June by two USCCB committees.

U.S. Jewish leaders had found the passage offensive and said faithful Jews could not enter into dialogue with Catholics if those Catholics were always at least implicitly seeking their conversion.

The church officials, who included Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, USCCB president, also issued a six-point “Statement of Principles for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue” that clearly affirms that God’s covenant with the Jews has never been revoked.

“Jewish covenantal life endures till the present day as a vital witness to God’s saving will for his people Israel and for all of humanity,” it says.

So, by setting up the straw man, by becoming offended (TM) at the suggestion that the Church wants everyone to be Catholic, the professionally offended parties can pressure the Church into a bit of bowing and scraping and back-pedalling.

There's only one problem. The Catholic Church has never said that God "revoked" the covenant with the Jews. God doesn't change His mind.

He said, and out loud using a human voice speaking in a language everyone at the time understood, something quite different.

It is worth noting what the "controversial passage" said:
“Though Christian participation in interreligious dialogue would not normally include an explicit invitation to baptism and entrance into the church, the Christian dialogue partner is always giving witness to the following of Christ, to which all are implicitly invited.”

Sorry. Just can't see the problem here.

The line, however, according to the Offended Parties, “is antithetical to the very essence of Jewish-Christian dialogue as we have understood it in the post-Vatican II era.”

Well, maybe we've been doing it wrong then.

"Certainty admits of no degrees"

Certainty admits of no degrees. Doubt may; but certainty excludes doubt and all its gradations.

To be moderate, cautious, forbearing, self-mistrusting, and considerate of opponents in all doubtful matters, is a virtue; but in matters that are certain, to fail in saying that they are so, is to betray the truth.

To treat certainties as uncertainties in mathematics is not intellectual, in revelation is unbelief. The only moderation possible in matters of theological certainty is to speak the truth in charity ...

to diminish the precision of truths which are certain, or to suffer them to be treated as dubious, or to veil them by economies, or to modify them to meet the prejudices of men or the traditions of public opinion is not moderation, but an infidelity to the truth, and an immoderate fear, or an immoderate respect for some human authority.
Henry Cardinal Manning

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

When accused of being "uncharitable"

it is sometimes helpful to trot out the Doctors:

“He who is not angry, whereas he has cause to be, sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices, it fosters negligence, and incites not only the wicked but the good to do wrong.” St. John Chrysostom

And St. Jerome:
Writing to Saint Augustine: "Well done! You are famous throughout the world. Catholics revere you and point you out as the establisher of the old-time faith; and -- an even greater glory -- all heretics hate you. And they hate me too; unable to slay us with the sword, they would that wishes could kill."

Writing to Rufinus: "There is one point in which I cannot agree with you: you ask me to spare heretics -- or, in other words -- not to prove myself a Catholic."

On the other hand

I'm slightly worried that the African Synod will make my head explode.

A Congolese choir, with bongo drums, electric guitars and swaying, ululating singers, filled St Peter's Basilica with African hymns as the pope formally opened the synod..

That faint popping sound you hear over in N. America might just be me, later this week.
“If the election of a black as head of the United States of America was a ‘divine sign’ and ‘a sign from the Holy Spirit for the reconciliation of races and ethnic groups, for peaceful human relations ..." Monsengwo said, “this Synod and the universal church would gain from not ignoring this primordial event of contemporary history, which is far from being a banal game of political alliances.”

"reconciliation of races and ethnic groups"...

Unless they haven't been born yet, of course.

The guy with the best job in the world

Here's some more happy.

Matt has made a VISA ad, apparently in Japan.

I wish I were Matt.

That's not racist!

"We've had Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the United Nations ... he had his problems, but he did it. Now we have Obama in the United States. So, if by divine providence, God would wish to have a black man as pope, I say thanks be to God!" Peter Cardinal Turkson on the possibility of a Ghanaian becoming Pope.

'Cause you know, saying it is necessarily a good thing for a man to hold high public office just because he is black or African ISN'T RACIST!!!


Obama election a "divine sign": African bishop

Not off the plantation yet, it seems.

Doom and gloom and the end of the world

Getting kind of gloomy around here.

Time for some happy.

Sunday before last, I decided to try something new. Well, new to me anyway. Went with a friend to the Russicum.

I don't know much about liturgy, to tell the truth.

Gave up all that worrying some time ago.

But I sure know what I like. (If you look very closely, you will see that on the chandelier what look like candles are actually politically correct EU twisty lightbulbs. Yep, the EU is everywhere, and watching you.)

Why did we ever think that switching to the polyester bathrobe look was a good idea? Were people just insane in the '60s?

I wish I could convey the thing that really lifts one out of the gloomy world of the here and now, which is the chant. Maybe next time I go I'll take along my digital voice recorder.


the sunrise over the ancient hills of Etruria. 7 am from my teeny terrace.


Italy: a great place for conviviality. Not so hot if you want to get anything practical done, but conviviality, we got in spades.


What bread and butter pudding looks like when it comes out of the oven.
Mmmmmmm... English food.

Make it here.