August 2013

The latest issue of the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati arrives in mailboxes this weekend with several articles worth calling to your attention.

One concerns campus ministry at the University of Cincinnati’s Newman Center at St. Monica-St. George. Other than a mention of their version of the 80s-style “Mass on the Grass,” it’s unclear what’s especially Catholic about it. (Wouldn’t it be fun if the students showed up in Members Only jackets and shag cuts?) Does the center have a sacramental focus? Is confession available frequently? Adoration? Catechesis? You’ll need to do your own research.

Another article describes Fr. Barry Windholtz’s efforts to revitalize St. Peter in Chains Cathedral into an authentic parish. He will undoubtedly bring a tremendous amount of energy to the task, much as he did to St. Rose, which thrived under his leadership.

A parishioner at St. Gertrude of Madeira, a center of dynamic orthodoxy in the AOC, has been devoted to studying, writing, and promoting icons for the past ten years, and her efforts are described in a third article.

To promote the USCCB’s big immigration push this Sept. 8, the editors re-run Archbishop Schnurr’s* July letter, which uses as its touchstone a controversial address from Pope Francis in Lampedusa, Italy, in which he accused an unspecified number of people of “indifference” to the plight of migrants. Essayist Theodore Dalrymple took the Holy Father to task for the “loose thinking” behind his and, by extension, Archbishop Schnurr’s* words recently. Here’s the crux of Dalrymple’s piece:

Compassionate fellow-feeling, however, can soon become self-indulgent and lead to spiritual pride. It imparts an inner glow, like a shot of whiskey on a cold day, but like whiskey it can prevent the clear-headedness which we need at least as much as we need warmth of heart. Pascal said that the beginning of morality was to think well; generosity of spirit is not enough.

In his homily, the Pope decried what he called ‘the globalization of indifference’ to the suffering of which the tragedy of the drowned was a manifestation and a consequence. Our culture of comfort, he said, has made us indifferent to the sufferings of others; we have forgotten how to cry on their behalf. He made reference to the play of Lope de Vega in which a tyrant is killed by the inhabitants of a town called Fuente Ovejuna, no one owning up to the killing and everyone saying that it was Fuente Ovejuna that killed him. The West, said the Pope, was like Fuente Ovejuna, for when asked who was to blame for the deaths of these migrants, it answered, ‘Everyone and no one!’ He continued, ‘Today also this question emerges: who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters? No one! We each reply: it was not I, I wasn’t here, it was someone else.’

The Pope also called for ‘those who take the socio-economic decisions in anonymity that open the way to tragedies such as these to come out of hiding.’

With all due respect, I think this is very loose thinking indeed of a kind that the last Pope would not have permitted himself. The analogy between the two situations, the murder of the tyrant in Fuente Ovejuna and the death by drowning of thousands of migrants, is weak to the point of non-existence. After all, someone in Fuente Ovejuna did kill the tyrant; no one in the west drowned the migrants. Is the Pope then saying that Europe’s refusal to allow in all who want to come is the moral equivalent of actually wielding the knife?

By elevating feeling over thought, by making compassion the measure of all things, the Pope was able to evade the complexities of the situation, in effect indulging in one of the characteristic vices of our time, moral exhibitionism, which is the espousal of generous sentiment without the pain of having to think of the costs to other people of the implied (but unstated) morally-appropriate policy. This imprecision allowed him to evade the vexed question as to exactly how many of the suffering of Africa, and elsewhere, Europe was supposed to admit and subsidize (and by Europe I mean, of course, the European taxpayer, who might have problems of his own). …

* The author of Archbishop Schnurr’s letter is almost certainly Tony Stieritz, the Democrat party activist who runs the Catholic Social Action Office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

As I write this post, Deacon Royce Winters, head of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Office of African American Affairs, is leading an official celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the late Dr. Martin Luther King’s marvelous “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington. Winters is a curious choice. The weekend after the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, Winters sternly rebuked a priest of the archdiocese for failing to devote his homily to Obama’s victory. One wonders what he would make of Obama’s point-scoring, race-baiting commemoration of Dr. King’s message of fraternity and conciliation earlier today:

The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class, reduced the bargaining power of American workers.

And our politics has suffered. Entrenched interests — those who benefit from an unjust status quo resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal, marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools — that all these things violated sound economic principles.

We’d be told that growing inequality was the price for a growing economy, a measure of the free market — that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.

And then there were those elected officials who found it useful to practice the old politics of division, doing their best to convince middle-class Americans of a great untruth, that government was somehow itself to blame for their growing economic insecurity — that distant bureaucrats were taking their hard-earned dollars to benefit the welfare cheat or the illegal immigrant.

Here’s one to put a smile on your face. The Catholic Courier of Rochester, the newspaper serving my home diocese, posts a CNS video about American Benedictine monks in Norcia, Italy, who’ve been brewing beer for the past year and using it to evangelize. Salute!:

In solidarity with the USCCB’s push for “comprehensive” immigration reform this September 8, the Catholic Social Action office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is distributing resources for parish use, including sample intercessions. Here’s the graceless kick-off prayer:

For our leaders, that they may implement policies that allow for safe migration, just migrant working conditions, and an end to the detention of asylum seekers, while protecting our national safety, we pray to the Lord.

Yet what is comprehensive immigration reform, exactly? The faithful can’t be expected to get behind something unless they know what it is. In Archbishop Schnurr’s July letter, he exhorts us to embrace this comprehensive reform but never really defines it. The closest he comes is in this paragraph near the end:

We hope and pray that the U.S. House of Representatives and its leaders will advance the cause of comprehensive immigration reform that allows our nation to protect its borders and provides for family reunification, stronger workers’ rights, and pathways to citizenship. Should they fail, should they vote for the status quo, then no one wins — not migrants or their families, not law enforcement, not our economy or communities, not America.

If this ambiguity is due to His Excellency recognizing that the Church’s role is to educate the faithful on a set of principles that they then balance across complex situations so as to exercise their prudential judgment (as opposed to, say, abortion, which has a bright line mandating prohibition), then all to the good. But the way these efforts come across is that the federal government should set about proposing and doing something “big” and that we are duty-bound to support it. And that just ain’t so.

St. Ignatius Maronite Catholic Church is running their annual Dayton Lebanese Festival this weekend. Sorry I didn’t mention it earlier, but go if you can! It’s fun for the whole family with plenty of good food, and rides too. The entertainment is Lebanese dancing by the women and girls (and sometimes men) of the parish, as well as by other dance groups.

There’s a Festival Mass on Sunday at 10 AM, in Aramaic.

(But as usual in the Eastern rites, Father kinda prefers you don’t receive if he doesn’t know you and doesn’t know if you’ve gone to Confession recently, etc.)

What is it about campus or youth ministry that every fall makes the people running it think, “If we do the same totally ‘rad’ things we did in the ’80s, the kids will finally come”?

Here’s the picture accompanying a CNS back-to-school story on “campus ministry readiness” that runs in the latest issue of the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati:

Note that about twenty students appear to be assisting Green Bay Auxiliary Bishop Robert Morneau at a “Mass on the Grass” (I’m not making that up) at the University of Wisconsin, a school that enrolls nearly 43,000.

We’re watching Rick Steves’s Europe on PBS as he visits Barcelona and Montserrat. Picasso spent his teen years in the former, and much of his early work is displayed there. As opposed to the rather cartoonish, abstract “masterpieces” of his later years, these paintings are realistic and accessible. One that Rick shows is “First Communion,” which features his communicant sister with his father standing nearby. Take a look:

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