Friday, March 29, 2013

Gorn Fight!!

This one's for you, Fr. Paul.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Red Pill

This is interesting. I remember being very curious about this project many years ago. By the time I discovered Sr. Irene and her lonely struggle, she was almost done, though. I'm trying to track her down and ask her how things are going now. Anyone know how she might be reached?

The moment when the "scales fell" from her eyes I thought particularly poignant. I remember the pain of Tradding. It was awful, because one of the things I was forced to realise is that there is no "revival" going on in the Church, particularly in the religious life. Everything in the Church is gripped with the same deadly error. Everything. The novusordoist disease is everywhere. It was horrible to realise that there was nowhere to go.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Too little; too late

Marriage means little to nothing to modern people. Cube it, dice it, chop it up and re-define it, it makes little difference to those millions of us raised in the hell of the Divorce Tsunami that hit when I was in junior high school. Having been raised on Canada's Left Coast, for much of the western world cultural Ground Zero, I knew very few kids in school whose parents were not divorced or going that way. And now that the Sexual Revolution has re-written an entire civilisation's mating rules, people look upon marriage as some kind of obscure cultural ritual indulged in for aesthetic reasons by those with a taste for romantic antiquarianisms, like Morris Dancing.

To the average modern, culturally deracinated and socially atomised urban 25 year-old, it seems there is little economic incentive and next to no social advantage to being married. He has had no role model for being a husband, she sees nothing but what her feminist university professors have described as a form of indentured domestic servitude. Men and women have been taught to look upon each other, at best, as commodities in an endless commercial contest to see who can get the most from the other for the least investment. At worst, as mortal enemies in a war of the sexes.

Our society, our laws, our courts, our schools, have long since drained the meaning out of marriage as a social institution. So, honestly, I'm inclined to think that it will make little difference if we "extend the franchise" to include homosexuals or polyamorists, or even zoophiles or people attracted to coffee tables.

I'm less than perfectly impressed with the clamouring of the Christian leadership now over "gay marriage". I see in it much the same thing I saw with the older generation of anti-abortion activists. They are choosing this topic, very late in the day, and trying to isolate it from all the rest, saying, "Just don't go this far. Keep all the rest of the Great Experiment, but draw the line here." This is the thinking that brought us "civil partnerships" and continues to argue that it is a sensible "compromise" to have a social institution for same-sex partners that is identical in every legal way to marriage except the name.

But why draw the line here? In fact, why have any line at all? The Experiment requires that there be no lines at all, no restrictions or boundaries on human sexual proclivities. Could it be because they, like the "Overturn Roe" pro-lifers really want the entire Big Picture to stay the same? They like the Newfangled World just fine, thanks, but just can't stomach the "ick factor" of seeing two men kissing on the balcony. Like the previous generation of dilletante pro-lifer, they are fine with the "gains" of the Revolution, women working, kids raised by the state...

What that kind of "pro-family activist" wants is for the Sexual Revolution to remain in all its basic premises, but for some of the external forms to remain acceptable to neo-Victorian Christmas card makers. It's not only that they are too squeamish to talk about homosexuality, it's that there is some dark recess of their brains where logic is still functioning subconsciously and they know that were they ever to start talking about the issue in terms of human nature and sex, what it is, what it is for, how it must be controlled to allow us to form stable societies, their whole universe would come crashing down. (This is the essential difference, btw, between "neocon" Catholics and Trads. Our universe already came crashing down long ago, and we have already been forced to face the fact that there is simply nothing in the strange land of Newfanglia for us.)

Bishops don't talk about the real reason to be opposed to "gay marriage" for precisely and exactly the same reason they didn't talk about abortion, contraception and divorce (in reverse historical order) before it.

And you can be sure they won't. Ever.

The kind of bishop and clergyman running the joint now is wedded to this new kind of Church, one that on the whole embraces the new kind of world we created over the last couple of centuries. These are people who like the modern world just fine thanks, but just want a little room, a little "social space" to be created for those with more delicate aesthetic sensibilities to go through what remains of their lives in peace. In reality, they would far prefer not to talk about it at all, and you can be sure they will cease doing so as soon as it is politically expedient.



You know how cats are. You're sitting there at the table, working on something, and the cat decides that it's her-time. She plops down on the keyboard, totally disregarding the fact that you're typing on it at the time. It's warm. And she wants petting.

Nice to know there are some things that never change.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Lloyd and Dianne

Apparently, young people don't know about this.

Weird, huh?


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sponsored by the diocese of Tulsa Oklahoma

I met Bishop Slattery once. I was visiting the Clear Creek monastery a few years ago and was invited to a pro-life dinner and got seated at his table. He appears as a very intelligent, charming, old fashioned gentleman with courtly but relaxed manners. One of the better ones.

I have no desire whatever to live in Oklahoma, but if anyone is looking for one of those Catholic havens we're always hoping to find, Tulsa might be one.

h/t Fr. Zed. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

What do they teach them in schools these days?

Once upon a time, some frogs who lived in a pond called out to the god Zeus and begged him to send them a king. Zeus, knowing the frogs well, threw down a log that made a great splash and then bobbed gently in the water. At first the frogs were terrified of their new king, and obediently gave it honour. But after a while, they found that the king was very gentle, indeed, rather inert and no longer terrified them, so they started hopping most insolently all over it and making jokes about it. Soon the frogs were dissatisfied with their patient and forgiving king, so they cried to Zeus once more, demanding a better, more active, dare we say, more up to date king. Zeus, having become annoyed by the frogs' lack of piety, sent them a much more appropriate king; a stork, who, immediately upon landing in the pond began to eat the frogs. The terrified frogs again appealed to Zeus, begging him to free them of their tyrant-king, but Zeus replied that this time, they must face the consequences of their demands.

The end.

Sometimes we get what we ask for from the gods, and other times we get what we deserve.


Thursday, March 21, 2013


Got the lurgy.

And I want cake.


Monday, March 18, 2013

For no good reason

this song just suddenly popped into my head.

I looked the band up. It's the only good one they did. All the rest is just cheap synthpop rubbish.


Suffering and the Real

Last night, I got a little message on FB from an old friend, from waaay back in BC, who told me he was going through a difficult patch and was experiencing severe depression. He's got a bad combination of work/health/family stress and it's doing to him what such things often do. I know this man very well, (he taught me to drive) and I knew that he was not the sort to use these terms lightly. I knew that "severe" meant dangerous. He also knew that I had some experience with such things, which was why he asked me, "Tell me life is worth living".

But what can you do for a close friend who lives 8700km away? He rescued me, several times, in my mid-20s, before I'd figured everything out.

I know from my own experience how difficult it can be to get out of that house of mirrors. Depression can be a terrible trap, but the one hope is that it is one of our own making. It is a capitulation to Fantasy.

I've written a great deal about The Real and Fantasy here, but maybe not so much about how it's possible to apply it all in one's real life. A while ago, one of our regular commboxers sent me an email saying more or less the same thing. He was depressed and it was getting worse. He wanted to know how my ideas about The Real could help him cope with his brain and circumstances. It was a hard question, not because it's difficult to do, but it's a bit difficult to describe.

Below is an edited segment of my discussion with my friend that gives a fuller answer than I was able to give before.

Can you do me a favour?

Tell me life is worth living.



it's the only thing there is.

what's the alternative?

not death, because that's just more life

the alternative is non-existence, which we do not have the power to procure

I can neither make nor unmake myself

I can entropy my ass into a dissolute state.

you mean not do any housework?

Let the energy bleed away and the matter convert to other fporms.

To be honest, the housework would be okay.

you have some kind of superpower there, mate

if you have the power to induce entropy, I'd like to know the trick

I'm in a a constant entropic state.

but it is debatable whether human existence is entirely in a realm of the natural, and even if we had such final power over the natural realm, which we don't, we have even less power over the supernatural.

we are what we are, we didn't make ourselves, and we don't have the power to change either of those things

you're in a constant state of emotional and psychological turmoil

which isn't at all the same thing

have you ever read Aquinas?

maybe you should try him


A long time ago.

Sorry, not in the mood for flights of fanc today. Talk about what's really bothering you or go away. Nonsense about "entropy" will only annoy

Severly depressed.

And unable to spell


is it the chemical kind of depressed or environmental?

Work stress

Heart attack

Relationship stress

Parental stress

General inability to face life

environmental, then

Piling on to pre-existing lifelong depression.

I'm familiar.

I know

I think you may suffer from philosophical depression more than anything else

is it possible you have failed to sufficiently live in and dedicate yourself to The Real?

have you indulged in Fantasy?

Do you lack the mental discipline to order your thoughts towards The Objective Real?

I have noticed when I am becoming depressed, it follows a very familiar pattern , starting with a train of thought

the thoughts are linked together in a chain of logic that leads from one Worst Assumption to the next

it has the appearance of uncontestable truth because the logic is nearly always sound

which is a big problem for wordy-smart people like you and me

I'm familiar with that, yes.

we are able to think our way into being miserable, but not out of it

this is because we have failed in the first rule of rational thought. We have started the syllogism upside down.

to be a true syllogism, we have to start with premises that are themselves true

you and I become depressed when we accept as true greater and lesser premises that are untrue

My favourite untrue premises are things like, "My parents didn't love me because I am worthless".

I move quickly from there to "No one will ever love me" (lesser premise)

"therefore my existence is without value" (conclusion)

it all makes sense to my brain while I'm thinking it, but looking at it objectively, we can both see a whole mess of things in there that are simply erroneous.

My parents didn't love me because they were emotionally and spiritually stunted people

it had nothing to do with me

In fact, loads of people love me.

and as for the conclusion, my worth as a human soul doesn't come from whether any human being ever did or ever will love me. It comes from being created in the image of God.

the entire syllogism is worthless, a Fantasy.

a tissue of self-induced lies and misery that lies on my mind like a pall.

the only thing to do to combat this evil thing, because that's what it is, is The Real.

My wife just hugged me and told me she loves me. That's pretty Real.

Except then I immediately turn that into feelings of being unworthy of that love.

as I said, habits of thought

confront the thoughts with an objective mindset.

what makes you so special as to be the only person in the world unworthy of love?

Hard to do when you are in the grip of those habits of thought. They act to limit your field of vision.

they do

which is why it's more important to do this as a pure exercise of the will

than as a response to feelings

which brings me back to Aquinas

virtue, of which this is a part, is a combination exercise of the intellect and will

you suffer from un-disciplined passions.

you can reduce your suffering by learning to discipline them with your intellect and will

remember in D&D there was a roll you could make to see if you could "disbelieve" in a particular threatening situation if you thought it was the product of an illusion?

I imagine this is like that. You use your will to forcefully ignore the evil thoughts.

when you counter them with the facts, with The Real, they lose a great deal of their power to induce negative emotions,

what Aquinas called the passions

But then the conditions that produce those thoughts are still there.

that's The Fantasy talking

what "conditions" are those?

that you are a good man, with a loving wife, a good job, a decent education and a beautiful child?

It's all very familiar, isn't it?

a big part of the Fantasy that's hurting you is the script that tells you it's not your thoughts that are making youmiserable, but the "conditions" behind them

you are just reacting normally to bad conditions.

your misery is therefore justified and rational

it rather lets you off the hook doesn't it?

there's nothing you can do about the "conditions" .

I will argue that there's nothing I can do about my conditions. the facts of my past, the fact that my mother never loved me, that she abandoned me. that I never was able to get an education.

it allows me to sit back and say, "see? I deserve to be as miserable as I like"

because there's nothing I can do

You have a better education than most people in the world.


that is The Real

the other stuff is the neurotic Fantasy

It can be difficult to get up and face the conditions in a mature way sometimes.

the conditions will always be there, and it is how we think about them that causes all the trouble. But the thinking is where it all goes wrong.

There are things you can control in life and things you can't. Your thoughts about yourself are one of the first group.

but it's very hard. esp. after a lifetime of bad habits

but you have already accomplished a great deal in this vein

The things I can control are the only ones that ever give me trouble. If it is beyond my control then I don't worry about it, because it is not an area in which my personal failures make a difference.

you might also try writing down point by point what you think a perfect person would look like. A perfect you.

you might find it a tad unrealistic.

your personal failures are probably not going to land you in the international criminal court

they might not even be of much interest to a parish confessor

say your three Hail Mary's and stop thinking you're all that.

one of the things that regular Confession does is take out a lot of your pride about your sins.

we can be very proud of what great, awful people we are

and it can be very deflating to have a priest yawn, look at his watch and give you three Aves

the good thing about Catholic praxis is that it cuts you down to size. yo

you quickly find that yo're not really very different from everyone else

because going into the confessional forces you to make a bullet-pointed list of the objective actual things you may have done wrong.

That's really depressing.

and it is never very heroically bad. it's always a pretty tawdry bunch of little betrayals and sad hoardings

I think you suffer a bit from the need to be special in your badness

it can be a let down when you learn you're just ordinary

I always hoped that other people are doing a better job at life than I am. If they aren't then that's truly sad.

but at least it grants you some solidarity.


and makes you more able to cut them and yourself a little slack

jus' plain folks, I'm afraid

and your awful badness doesn't impress God

Not trying to impress anyone or feel special about my unhappiness. Just trying to survive it.

But all this rational discourse has done a lot to settle and calm me down.

it's about Real things

your brain is trying to trick you.

And keep in mind, depression comes in waves, it attacks and then recedes.
while's its happening, it can be overwhelming. but when it goes away, you can be left wondering what all the fuss was over


Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Fabulous Wealth"

Apparently, we are going to have to start having these familiar conversations again.

We will be accused, again, of being "fabulously rich," of being in a state of sin because the Church owns so much art and fancy buildings. Again, [how tedious!] we will have to ask, "Who would you like to sell the Sistine Chapel to?" "Which Saudi prince do you think would give us the best price for the Pieta?" And "How long do you think the cash raised would last?" Perhaps we should simply raze Chartres Cathedral to the ground, since such things, while of almost inestimable cultural, social and religious value, don't actually sell very well as cash-generators in the current market.

How are we to help the poor if we have nothing ourselves? We will be forced, again, to remind our accusers that the Catholic Church already does the vast lion's share of practical charitable work of any institution in the world, far outstripping bodies like the UN.

Also, who are "the poor"? We think at first glance that it's a pretty easy question to answer in places like Jakarta, or Buenos Aires. But what about London? What about Toronto? I've met "the poor" in Toronto and I can tell you that what they lack can't be given out of a parish poor fund. What they need can't be supplied out of a food bank. They are inarguably poor, but not because they have no access to material necessities. They are culturally, morally and socially impoverished. They are ignorant and intellectually stunted. They do not read for pleasure or illumination; they have flat screen TVs but no books. They think only in terms of what they can get, not what they can do or contribute. I don't agree with Kathy, who often says, "'The poor' are the rich Jesus warned you about," but her point is well made.

Who are the poor? In what way are they poor? How much of their poverty is self-induced? How much of it is cultural or spiritual poverty? How much of my own material substance is sufficient to qualify my as "caring for the poor"? Can I love and own beautiful things without sin? How can we help people to help themselves? How can I help to enrich a person whose suffering may be moral poverty, or cultural poverty, which seems to be the most common kind in the West? There are materially wealthy people, as Mother Theresa liked to point out, who are so spiritually impoverished as to be worthy only of the most abject pity. Whose souls are stunted and enslaved by their wealth. How do we approach "poverty" in a society that regards not owning a new car a devastating deprivation?

The problem with the pope talking about "a poor Church for the poor" is that it encourages people to entertain some very simplistic ideas. It assumes we know both who these poor are, and that all they require is a bit of cash, preferably from the government. Many years ago I had a conversation with a Jesuit (not the good kind) and an anti-nun. We were at some tawdry little Novusordoist prayer group thing, and were instructed to pray for "the poor". Being me, I put up my hand and asked for specifics. Who, in our insanely wealthy society are "the poor"? And how, specifically, are we to help them? (I was unemployed because of a puzzling and chronic illness at the time and so was amusing myself by torturing stupid people.)

I was told about the people on welfare, what a rotten time they had. I suggested that perhaps they would be happier working than receiving such dubious aid from faceless, uncaring government officials. I was then told that some could not work. I said that I was currently on disability, does that make me the poor? Did that mean, therefore, that I should be the pray-ee, rather than the pray-er.

My suggestion that, before God, we are all poor, naked and helpless, was greeted by these good Socialists with scorn.

~ * ~

Fr. Blake asks for specifics:

"As for the Church being poorer, I am not sure what that means either.

"Most of our money is in real estate: buildings. Do we sell off the ancient and culturally significant buildings in city centres and the devotional art within them and move to the cheaper suburbs. Certainly we exist as a Church to proclaim Jesus Christ, we not museum keepers. But what about our Catholic schools and hospitals, again we are an NGO supplying education, medical care or any other services, should those be given away to local communities, and the equipment in them, do we just use the cheaper and less advanced, should a Catholic hospital have a highly expensive CATscan or employ expensive staff, where does poverty come here?

"As far as education is concerned, do we as Church stop sending students to the better universities in solidarity with poor and less advantaged, or even stop sending the then to university at all. Education is after all the opener to many doors and to influence and power, should we disdain all that?

"I have known old Jesuits who kept all they had in a small suit case, ready to move to do the will of their superior at a moments notice. Here poverty was an internal thing, a lack of attachment to created things. Is that what Pope Francis means by a "poorer Church", or is it a Church stripped of its artistic heritage. Is it detachment, or is it a cultural desert?"


Best Traddie birthday party ever!

So, I went into the City yesterday and had drinks with some nice friends where we talked pope-shop. Then we went to mass and heard Holy Things, then wandered across the bridge and had dinner in Trastevere.

Anyone wanting to wipe out the Catholic Traditionalist movement in the US missed a chance there. Of the ten people present, four of them were Dr. John Rao, Chris Ferrara, Michael Matt and John Vennari. We had cake and a splendid time was had by all. I even got presents!

~ * ~

The weather has remained pretty lion-like, with big wind and heavy overcast today, and the sea really high, but I noticed today that the Beach People of Santa Marinella have started combing the sand in preparation for the season. Last year by the middle of April it was warm enough to at least lie on the beach and read and take quick little dips in the water.

~ * ~

Both lots and not much to say about the new pope. Plenty of people talking, but I've noticed that everyone saying more or less the same things over and over. I do note, however, that it seems the brief moment of fashionableness the Trads enjoyed during Benedict's pontificate has come to an end, and all the neo-conservative world has taken up their former hobby of bashing us and having hysterics whenever anyone says anything that contradicts their popolatry. Oh well. Not like we're not used to it.

~ * ~

I'm having wardrobe thoughts with the appearance of the spring flowers. It really doesn't take much to produce nice things to wear. It's really all a matter of knowing what you want your look to be, and putting pieces together to achieve it.

It may be just the spring, but I'm finding myself once again drawn to the pre-WWI - post Titanic period, long tailored jackets, high or square necklines, lace and French cuffs, long straight skirts. A bit of Season 1 Downton Abbey.

"Shabby Chic" meets the Addams Family, perhaps.

I realise that another word for this would be "frou-frou" but, contrary to the popular rumours, I am, in fact, a girl.


Friday, March 15, 2013


Unusually for the Catholic liturgical calendar, there aren't really a lot of saints for March 15th. Somehow, though, I have an idea that the Stabbing Anniversary is appropriate for my birthday.


Positive Polly...

Mike talks the Trads down from the ledge..
Hardly a Vatican insider, he reportedly kept his distance from the Roman Curia—a policy that may stand him in good stead to act decisively on the matter of the 300-page dossier on the Vatileaks scandal which Pope Benedict entrusted to his successor and which allegedly details wide spread corruption among the curia.

He’s known to have a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother (is said to pray fifteen decades of the rosary every day), and in fact called upon Our Lady several times from the loggia during his first message to the world last night. This morning one of his first papal acts was to make a pilgrimage to the Basilica Santa Maria Maggoire. There he placed flowers on Mary’s altar and knelt for several long moments in prayer. If externals mean anything, our Holy Father’s devotion to the Mother of God is as genuine as it is touching, which, of course, bodes well for him and for us all.

Other interesting news: he has not automatically re-hired the Curia, something both John Paul II and Benedict XVI did within 24 hours of their elections.


Massimo Miracle Day

So, there's this thing that happens in Rome every year around my birthday. And I'm going this year, having missed it the last couple of years.

Massimo Miracle Day


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beware the Ides of March. But don't worry, we'll stay away from the Forum.

It's my birthday tomorrow. I'll be wrestling with the inescapable fact that I am now closer to fifty than forty - and one more year closer to the last one - but no closer at all to figuring out what the hell I'm supposed to be doing, having any particular direction or figuring out the intrinsic meaning of it all.

Those who, perhaps, find themselves not in the best possible mood in the last day or so, would be welcome to join me for dinner and/or a drink or two.

I'm going to be celebrating (if we can call it that) on Saturday in Rome at a location to be announced. This way, those with scruples about such things can tell themselves that First Vespers of Sunday having passed they need not fret over failing in their Lenten observances.

Let me know in the commboxes or send me an email.


Last hurrah

So, there I was, sitting in the office about 7 o'clock, transcribing a video for a story with the headphones on. At five past seven, I thought I had better go down to the Piazza to watch for the smoke. When I took off the headphones I heard the bells ringing.

But it was too early, four ballots, so I still wasn't convinced until I got down to the street and saw people running.

I ran the two or three blocks to the Holy Office entrance and climbed over a barrier into the Colonnade. The cops had been stopping people today and making a half-hearted effort to check bags, but now weren't really bothering to stop anyone and a lot of people were just climbing over the railings to get into the Piazza.

I managed to push my way fairly close to the front, just to the left of the Loggia and stopped just behind a group of Eton-accented seminarians from the Venerable English College. We chatted a bit but mostly people were quiet. Some Italians sang a patriotic song for the Italian Republic, apparently unaware of the irony.

At "Habemus Papam" I fulfilled one of my lifelong Catholic wishes, and, together with 150,000 other people, punched both fists in the air and cheered, and chanted "Viva il Papa! Viva il Papa!". I suspect it will be the last time for a long time.

After that, one of the VEC boys said it all seemed surreal. It was. When the announcement came it all seemed rather perfunctory. None of the dramatic pauses. Tauran came out quickly, said the famous phrases and was gone almost before we'd had a chance to cheer.

Then came the name followed by silence. Few had understood Tauran's poorly pronounced, and slightly mumbled Latin version of it and those who did had no idea who it was. Tauran botched the papal name as well, failing to wait until the cheering had died down before speaking it quickly into the microphone, so nearly everyone around me were looking at each other saying, "Who? What was the name?" The cheering died away and the boys in front of me were clustered around one of their number with a smartphone who was talking to someone else, relaying information via the internet. (Yes, I get the irony; even the people standing in the Piazza had to consult the 'net to find out what had just been told to them directly. Is that a sign of something? Probably, but I'm too tired to speculate.)

Then we knew. Argentina. A Jesuit. 76 years old. Bergoglio. Francis "the first". But it all seemed so strange. So perfunctory and abrupt. There had been none of the drama, the pauses, the acknowledgement of the crowd's response. As though the whole business had to be got over with quickly. Before anyone had a chance to get their bearings, Tauran had gone. Some Italians tried to chant the new papal name, (which is how many of us learned what it was) but it just didn't seem to work, and the effort trickled down and died.

Then another moment and the crucifix appeared followed by a tall, erect man in white. At first glance I was reminded of Pius XII.

But again it was strange. He was in papal white, but not in choir dress. There was no apostolic stole. No red mozzetta. And he simply walked towards the railing of the Loggia and for a long moment just stood still, his arms straight at his sides. The crowd's cheering seemed to elicit no response at all. He was silhouetted against the light coming from behind the curtains and he seemed, simply, unmoved.

After his rather flat greeting, that included a joke, the only other huge cheer came at the mention of the name Benedict. After that, it was a relief to pray. A moment of silence came which was almost eerie. Have you ever been shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowd of 150,000 people and heard total silence? I'm not sure there is any experience like it. At that moment, a little thunder rolled distantly.

The VEC boys and I were the only ones to kneel for the Apostolic Blessing. Then there were a few more words, and the new pope simply turned around and left. People were left in the square for a few minutes, standing rather stunned. I'm not sure they were happy, except perhaps because the whole strange affair was over.

But I had already started working my way back through the crowd towards the Colonnade before Francis I had finished.

I've written here and elsewhere about the grave feeling of disquiet and foreboding that descended on me on the morning of February 11th. The conclave was conducted under a pall of gloom. The weather was awful. Cold, rainy, drizzly. On the morning of the Mass, it hailed.

This morning the sun was shining again. The news kiosks are piled high with Italian papers bearing the photos of a strange face, a man in white. Smiling.

Of course, there will be lots more, and I'm sure that I'll have a lot to say once the surprise wears off. But for now, all I've got is my gut, which tells me that last night was going to be the last time for a while that I will be standing in St. Peter's Piazza cheering.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Larry the Seagull predicts no pope tonight

"The Holy Spirit said he couldn't make it and asked me to fill in."


“It is a dangerous time. Pray for us."

Doom, gloom and the End of the World: My piece this week for the Remnant.

I seem to be in a bit of a mood...

ROME, March 12, 2013, – The waiting time is drawing to a close. This afternoon, the cardinals will have their first ballot.

As always, the official line about the substance of the cardinals’ discussions is slightly at odds with the quiet, unofficial but much more frank assessments coming off the record.


...the loss of faith has been largely a product of the failure of the men running the Church in the last 50 years to teach anyone anything about it. There is a line in the old Baltimore Catechism: our purpose in life is to “know God, to love Him and serve Him in this life and be happy with Him forever in the next”. Take careful note of the order given. We cannot love what we do not know. Knowing comes first. Can it be surprising to the cardinals gathered here that, the Church on the whole having refused to teach the Faith in the last 40 years that Catholics don’t know Him, aren’t interested in serving Him in this life, or have any hope of happiness in the next?

...we know the origins of the corruption in the Vatican. ...It is perfectly clear, even to some in the mainstream secular media: the anti-Christian dogmas that have seeped into the Church, that Paul VI called the “smoke of Satan,” have created a moral corruption so entrenched in the upper management of the Catholic Church that it has created crippling administrative chaos. The “Vatileaks” affair has exposed the depth of the moral and organisational rot.

I find that I am not cheerful at the prospect of a new pope. It is difficult to be confident that the men of the conclave are capable of facing these awful truths.


Our current calamity in the Church, and much of that of the secular world, was produced by a hierarchy and clergy who, starting about 1965, decided that it was more important to go with the flow of the world than to continue the uncomfortable and difficult work of directing it toward salvation. For decades, many of the men sitting in those plush chairs in the Paul VI Audience Hall last week have variously either failed to expunge the anti-Christian dogmas that infiltrated the Church or were themselves the ones pushing them.


Can any Catholics be left, whether “liberal” or “conservative” or “traditionalist” who still trust that the men inside the walls have the will to do what is best, or even what they may think is best for the Church? How many of us now have any confidence that they know what the priorities must be, or that they remember that the first and last aim is the salvation of souls?

I read last night another of the daily letters by an American Vaticanista, Robert Moynihan, the editor of Inside the Vatican. He related a conversation he had with an anonymous cardinal who also seemed deeply troubled by Pope Benedict’s abdication. I was relieved to see that this cardinal, whoever he was, also seemed to understand, and perhaps shares the terrible sense of foreboding that has filled me and many others since this whole thing began. Seeing the man’s disquiet, Moynihan asked him what we could all do for them.

“…A look passed over his eyes which seemed filled with shadows and concerns. I was surprised at his intensity…He squeezed my hand.

“'Pray for us,' he said. 'Pray for us.'

"He turned as if he needed to go...He took a step away from me, then turned again.

“'It is a dangerous time. Pray for us.'”


Day Two and Second Chimney-Watch - Black smoke

Was just down in the Piazza. It was v. crowded, and end-to-end umbrellas. The weather is pretty nasty, raining on and off with a perpetual drizzle between, and cold. Not Quebec City-cold, but chilly enough to make it less than fun standing around in the Piazza in the rain.

Thank God for the Roman bar, a place of warmth, conviviality, tea, cappucino and sometimes even eggs and bacon. If you're looking for me in the next few mornings, I'll be waiting for the smoke in the All Brothers wine and coffee bar, the one closest to the news kiosk at the bottom of delle Fornaci, right outside the entrance to the underpass leading to the Holy Office. Eggs, bacon, toast and tea for 10 Euros, including table service. There's always a few journalists sitting around ticking away on their Macs who will yell out if the smoke starts, and it's only about a 200 yard dash to the Piazza.


"Collegiality," "transparency" and the "New Evangelisation" - translating the Romanita code

The conclave-watcher’s lexicon: what do they mean when they say that?

by Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

The media and pundits, as well as churchmen, use a lot of jargon that many ordinary readers, unaccustomed to romanit√†, the carefully encoded diplomatic language used by the Vatican and its cadre of experts, will not be familiar with. A lot of the writing leading up to the conclave is about the “priorities” of the new pope. What should he do? This is where the issues start bumping up against both the jargon and the factions.

Since the cancellation last week of a series of press conferences organised by the Pontifical North American College, the cardinals have gone nearly silent. With one day left before the voting begins for a new pope, we have only the “experts” and pundits to guide our thoughts. Everyone is trying to piece together an overview of the situation, and the positions of the cardinals on an array of issues, a task that can prove daunting to those new to the Vatican-watching scene.

A small number of cardinals are still giving interviews to some MSM outlets, including Washington’s Donald Wuerl, who told La Stampa on Friday that he does not think this will be a short conclave. For those with ears to hear, Wuerl gave a signal to the other cardinals when he alluded to “collegiality,” a Vatican II buzzword meaning the union of all the bishops of the world with the pope. Wuerl told La Stampa that the new pope must focus on strengthening the relations between the “local church,” meaning the national bishops’ conferences, and the Vatican, a point that places him inside the “progressivist” camp. Since the 1960s, the Church in the western world, especially in Europe, has been locked in a power struggle between those supporting the “local church” who want to protect the power of the national bishops’ conferences – a post-Vatican II innovation – against the centralised authority of the papacy.

The growing power of the national conferences, which is often opposed to the canonical authority of a bishop in his own diocese, was one of the most serious obstacles to reform facing Pope Benedict. In one of his books, the former Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that the national bishops’ conferences had become a power-brokering machine never envisioned by the Council. In the case of his own native Germany, the bishops’ conference openly defied both Benedict’s and his predecessor’s authority when they were ordered to cease being involved in the government’s scheme allowing women to obtain abortions. Wresting power away from the pope and the Vatican, effectively establishing quasi-independent, national Churches is a cause dear to the hearts of most European and some American “progressivists”.

Even terms with which most of us are familiar, like the “New Evangelisation” require some unpacking. Experts and cardinals alike are saying that this is a key catchphrase of this conclave. But what many don’t realize, is that term has a very specific, and strictly limited interpretation by the official Church. It does not mean converting non-Catholics to Catholicism. It means “re-presenting the historic faith” to non-practicing, fallen-away Catholics in traditionally Christian, western nations: or in other, more old-fashioned words, calling back the lapsed.

In the old days, before the coming of the Second Vatican Council’s asteroid, it was normal to speak of “converting” non-Catholics as part of the mission of the Church. That was what we understood missionaries to be for. But this term, also called “proselytising,” has become utterly anathema to some prelates – kryptonite. To be accused of attempting to convert someone Jewish or Muslim or even Anglican or Baptist or Lutheran is tantamount to being accused of a kind of spiritual genocide.

Most Catholics who are not hemmed around by the new Catholic cult of political correctness that has ruled the Church for the last few decades, take it for granted that if one believes in the Catholic religion, one wants others to join it. Everyone, in fact. Because we believe its claims to be true, and, applying some basic logical principles, the claims opposed to it to be untrue, we don’t want other people to live in the darkness of error. Particularly if that error can have dire eternal consequences. But this is too much common sense for modern churchmen, wedded as many of them are to the demure and evasive politesse of the modern “ecumenical movement”.

Another key catchphrase of this conclave is “transparency,” and it is often used in connection to the Vatican’s financial scandals and the “Vatileaks” scandals. A lot of this is obscure to most Catholics outside Italy. But here, where the Vatican is always in the headlines, it is one of the major themes of the news cycle. In a nutshell, the secretiveness and factionalism in the Vatican – allegedly including a group of practicing homosexuals – has left the day-to-day running of the Church in an almost unprecedented (for modern times) state of disarray. The solution, and one of the “priorities” for the new papacy is American-style “transparency” in the Church’s dealings.

This call has led to headlines like that of the Globe and Mail today: “Does the Catholic church need to install a no-nonsense CEO as its next pope?” But it betrays another of the secular world’s failures, echoed unfortunately by many prelates, to understand the nature of the Church.

The modern world offers little in the way of analogy for what kind of institution the Catholic Church is. Perhaps most often it is presented as a kind of multinational corporation whose dioceses and parishes around the world are branch offices with the pope as CEO. This model, while it may superficially resemble the Church’s operating structure, fundamentally fails to reveal its nature. The spiritual language describing the Church, on the one hand, as the “body of Christ,” and on the other as the “Bride of Christ” incorporate more of its reality. But such a personal, bodily, incarnational notion of ecclesiology is beyond the ken of the secular world.

Others are warning that such calls are more sinister than a mere misunderstanding, however. One writer and Catholic historian explained to me that the threat of such a spiritually impoverished notion of the Church is that it would lead to it being treated as just another political economic prize to be manipulated by interested parties. He compared our current situation with that of the conclave of 1559 that elected Pope Pius IV, right in the middle of the massive upheavals of the Renaissance and Reformation.

The same kind of “transparency” being recommended to the voting cardinals today by the ever-so-savvy secular world was in fact applied at the time. The result of everyone in Europe knowing what was going on inside the Vatican’s walls was that the Church was pressed all around by the conflicting demands. Every major power of the time tried to force the outcome of the conclave; the Holy Roman Emperor, the French and Spanish Kings, and the rulers of the minor Catholic States of Italy and Europe. These, my friend said, “managed to violate the standard operating procedures of the conclave and overwhelm the voting cardinals with suggestions and commands, accompanied by warnings and threats regarding the dismal impact that failure to comply would have on their future careers.”

“In other words, the all too porous walls of the supposedly secret conclave ensured that the fires of the already blisteringly hot internal factionalism were continuously stoked from the outside.”

This “transparency” he said, is nothing more than “the latest fraudulent bumper sticker slogan” of those pushing the progressivist agenda of further capitulation to the secular world. A policy that “has never provided anything more than repeated opportunities for the strongest wills to triumph over Christ in the name of Reason and Progress”.

First Chimney-Watch

First ballot: black smoke
By Hilary White

ROME, March 12, 2013 ( – Tonight was my first time. Nearly everyone I know in Rome has been in the Piazza for at least one papal election, so even though we knew there would be no white smoke tonight, it was an exciting moment.

As my friend and I were heading down Gregorio VII and past the Paul VI Audience Hall, I was calculating how long it would take me, at a dead run, to get from the office to the Piazza. I plan on being there for every ballot, but on the off chance that the white smoke appears while I’m working on something else, I wanted to know that I could make it down there in time. I figured I could do it in about six or seven minutes.

As we approached the Colonnade, it was clear that a lot of people were heading down to be a part of history. And everyone was walking a lot faster than Romans usually do.

When we got there, though, it took a moment to take in the size of the crowd. I’m not much good at estimating these things, but it was clear that at least ten thousand had come down, in a pretty unpleasantly cold drizzle. We all knew it wouldn’t be tonight, but no one wanted to leave until we’d seen it ourselves. My friend, who had been there on the great day in 2005, said it isn’t the sort of thing you ever forget.

Posters in the Borgo, close to the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s apartment, by the Commune (municipality) of Rome: a fond farewell to a beloved pope.

The Vatican’s busy media centre for the 5000+ accredited journalists.

More than I would have thought for the first ballot.

The loggia, all ready to go.

The Carabinieri, looking much more grumpy than usual.

Journalists thick upon the ground.

Lots and lots of nuns.

Young and old.

No pope tonight.

First ballot tomorrow morning, with a possible Chimney-Watch by 10:30 am.

Rorate Caeli has put up this handy schedule, so if you're here and don't want to camp out in the Piazza, you can know when it's safe to go get a pizza and a coffee.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Black smoke on the first ballot

Clever clever me, said I to myself as I ran out of the house this morning with all my gear: voice recorder, computer, mouse, power cord, internet stick, camera, spare batteries, press pass, binoculars...

Forgot the cable thingy that makes the photos go from the camera to the computer. So, my own pics will have to wait til later tonight when I get home.

Big crowd out tonight for the first ballot, even though everyone more or less knew that there was no chance of a pope on the first ballot. Thousands came anyway.

Everyone very cheerful, lots of folks wrapped in their national flags, lots and lots of nuns, and plenty of priests and seminarians in cassocks ... evidence of the Ratzinger Effect in action. I'm told that as little as five years ago most seminarians would not have dared to wear a cassock and if you saw one it was a signal he was with the SSPX. Times changed, and we hardly noticed.

More later.



A new verb.

I've been kind of busy. Sorry.

But here's some stuff to read about the Conclave.

~ * ~

I can't tell you how many times I've been asked by passing journalists, doing their drive-by interviews, why Benedict is so much less popular than John Paul II was...

One of them asked me this when I was on the way into the Piazza for the Last General Audience where I got about ten feet past the Colonnade before I was stopped by a wall of humans...

errr... buddy... have you looked at this crowd?


VATICAN CITY—Cardinals, clergy and common pilgrims erupted into thunderous applause at the mention of “pope emeritus” Benedict XVI on Tuesday at a special mass in St Peter’s Basilica ahead of a conclave to elect his successor following his surprise resignation.

The applause lasted nearly a minute after Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in his homily, evoked the “brilliant pontificate (of) the beloved and venerable Pontiff Benedict XVI”.

Now that he wasn't there to tell us to knock it off.

~ * ~

Gloomy, bored and restless: MSM journalists ain't got nothin to do. They clearly didn't expect to be sitting around in cafes interviewing each other. You seriously can't get a cup of coffee anywhere within a mile of the Vatican these days without pushing past a bunch of American or German or Italian press. Big cameras, covered in rain gear, sitting on the tables...
As each day passes without a date set by the cardinals for the start of the conclave, the more than 5,000 journalists accredited to the Holy See in the last few weeks are growing more gloomy, bored, and restless. Most of the world’s secular press is represented at what is understood, somewhat vaguely, to be an event of huge importance, but few have a thorough understanding of the nature of what they are covering.

They expected exciting press conferences with bona fide cardinals who would talk about the substance of their discussions. They expected, at the very least, regular bulletins issued by the Holy See Press Office giving updates on the progress of the deliberations. Or at the very, very least they were looking forward to a fascinating give and take between cardinals and “experts” on the issues, the positions of various factions, their priorities and expectations.

What they’ve had is Fr. Frederico Lombardi telling them again and again in response to questions, “I’m sorry, we have no information about that.” Throughout the week, with the official media center set up by the Vatican being a highly restricted area, with Wi-Fi and cell phone access shut down except on the provided computers, most journalists have been relegated to watching the press briefings piped in through closed circuit TV cameras from a separate building. Permits are required to set up a tripod anywhere around St. Peter’s and the Vatican, and even carrying a hand-held camera and too obviously interviewing passers-by will sometimes earn a rebuke from the Vatican Gendarmes.

But media people are not accustomed to these kinds of restrictions, or the closed-mouthed approach of the Vatican. They didn’t expect to hear about oaths of secrecy, threats of excommunication for people talking to the press. They didn’t expect to be asked for €500 for permission to upload video content and e-mail it overseas. This just isn’t how the rest of the world behaves towards them. In the rest of the world, they are courted, and plied with dinners, drinks, and juicy bits of information in equal amounts.

~ * ~

Dark Horse Cardinals: the bad news.

And the less bad news.

~ * ~

More later...


Friday, March 08, 2013

Art classes

Well, despite my attention being, uhhh... kind of distracted from it for the moment, that time of year is rolling around again. Andrea the Famous Art Teacher will be back in Italy from her winter in Australia, and classes will be starting again.

The good news is that she's said it's finally time for me to move on from drawing to painting. I started a little bit of it last year, with a couple of Bozetti classes, where it's mostly about colour mixing. It was astoundingly difficult. But Andrea continues to assure me that it's not voodoo, that like drawing, one doesn't need the magic Harry Potter painting gene to learn to do it. It's not genetic or anything to do with some "innate talent". It's really just a skill like everything else. The more you practice the better at it you get.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that the classes, moving into the next phase, are longer, more difficult and, ahem, more expensive. And I've managed to sock away about a quarter of what I'll need.

So here we go, desperation time. I've put up the ol' familiar Paypal button again, in hopes that some of my nice friends might be able to throw a few pennies into the tip jar.

Think of it as a retirement plan, for when I'm too old to type. Painting. I can quit writing, move to a cheaper place in the country, maybe up in the hills in Molise, and paint. Kind of a dream.


Monday, March 04, 2013

Darkened windows

I was in the Piazza this afternoon, and could not help looking up at those closed windows.

Also, still reeling from the absolutely incredible incompetence of the organisers in the Vatican's media offices. They've kicked everyone out of the Sala Stampa, which has great facilities but is built to accommodate no more than a couple of dozen reporters at a time, and moved us all into a "media centre"...

that has no wifi.

And no cell phone signal.


They've accredited nearly 5000 journalists for the conclave, and they've set up a media centre where you can't use your phone or your computer. Instead, they've given us about 20 creaking old PCs with nothing but Spanish and Italian keyboards. They've had three weeks to set up for the presence of the world's media, and they've got 20 computer stations and about 30 more empty desks. As we were sitting in there today, watching the press conference from the first General Congregation, that we were only allowed to attend through closed circuit TV beamed in from the sala stampa, the technicians were still stringing cables to the other desks. They have no plans to provide wifi internet access. But I was told that there would be more computers available tomorrow.

Oh. Good.

Great work there guys.


Saturday, March 02, 2013

God wants your friendship

To school children in Britain, 2010

A prayer for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, from the old Raccolta (or "Collection of Indulgenced Prayers):

O Lord, we are the millions of believers, humbly kneeling at Thy feet and begging Thee to preserve, defend and save the Sovereign Pontiff for many years. He is the Father of the great fellowship of souls and our Father as well. On this day, as on every other day, he is praying for us also, and is offering unto Thee with holy fervour the sacred Victim of love and peace.

Wherefore, O Lord, turn Thyself toward us with eyes of pity; for we are now, as it were, forgetful of ourselves, and are praying above all for him. Do Thou unite our prayers with his and receive them into the bosom of Thine infinite mercy, as a sweet savor of active and fruitful charity, whereby the children are united in the Church to their Father. All that he asks of Thee this day, we too ask it of Thee in union with him.

Whether he weeps or rejoices, whether he hopes or offers himself as a victim of charity for his people, we desire to be united with him; nay more, we desire that the cry of our hearts should be made one with his. Of Thy great mercy grant, O Lord, that not one of us may be far from his mind and his heart in the hour that he prays and offers unto Thee the Sacrifice of Thy blessed Son. At the moment when our venerable High Priest, holding in His hands the very Body of Jesus Christ, shall say to the people over the Chalice of benediction these words: "The peace of the Lord be with you always," grant, O Lord, that Thy sweet peace may come down upon our hearts and upon all the nations with new and manifest power.



Resta con noi

In the last few years one of the simpler of the pleasures of working in Rome has been to keep an eye on the pope. After an evening out with friends or a long day running about the City you stroll across the piazza heading for the train station, and you pause and look up. Lights in the three windows in the top right-hand corner apartment of the apostolic palace were nearly always on, no matter how late you were heading home.

It was always a kind of comfort to look up and know that Pope Benedict was there, maybe playing his piano, working on a book or an encyclical, talking with the members of his household. I always worried that he stayed up too late, worked too hard.


At the last moment, I called a journalist friend who was lucky enough to be assigned to Castelgandolfo. We spoke as he stood in the centre of the crowd in the little town square, two working journalists, but also two Catholic friends giving comfort to one another. He said the little ceremony of greeting was “Very moving and meaningful.” As we talked, I heard the sounds of the crowd singing and praying in the background over the phone.


“There’s a great sadness that the Holy Father is no longer going to be the Holy Father. But mostly there’s joy and an almost palpable feeling of gratitude and appreciation of the greatness of Benedict XVI. This is what has kept people from having that sense of loss and sadness that happens when a pope dies.”

But they are sad too. “I talked to people,” my friend said, “asking what they would say to Benedict if they could, and they all said, ‘Stay with us, stay with us, stay with us,’ over and over again.”

Read the rest.


Breakfast of Paleo champions

Almond and hazelnut flour pancakes with fresh cream and frutti di bosco


three oz of almond meal
on oz of hazelnut meal
about 1 or 2 tbs of rice flour (to stabilise)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 packets/tsps of sweetener or a tbs honey
2 eggs
heavy cream
tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

Whipped cream
frozen or fresh frutti di bosco. (It's an Italian thing you can buy at all the supermarkets here, a combination of raspberries, blueberries, red currants and blackberries, and sometimes strawberries depending on the season. Any frozen or fresh berries will substitute.)

~ * ~

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, add the eggs, honey and vanilla and mix with a fork. Add enough cream to reach the desired consistency. (Pancake batter should not be runny but not be like muffin dough...somewhere in the middle.)

Heat a tbs or so of butter in a pan over a very low heat. Butter burns at a low temperature so keep it down. Drop in the batter and cover the pan.

While the pancake is cooking/baking, whip the cream to a stiff peak. Warm the berries in a pan over a low heat but watch them carefully so they don't stick. You don't want to cook them, but basically just thaw and soften them. When they're ready, allow to cool for a minute and fold them into the whipped cream.

Flip your pancake.

When it's done, it should fluff up and be very cake-y.

Lob onto a plate and cover generously with the cream.


Also good with creme fraiche or double cream.

Oh baby!


What art is good for

Click play on the music.

Now, open this link to the painting and click fullscreen so you don't see anything else to distract your eye.

While you're listening to the music, look at the painting and stop thinking. Don't think about anything, just use your eyes and ears.

Feel that?

That's what art is for.