Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How it Works

Christianity, Catholicism, value ethics, and orthodoxy in general has been under a general intellectual attack for the past several decades, from a form of criticism called deconstruction.

Earlier, Christ was attacked by the Communists, who claimed that the forces of history would inevitably overwhelm and destroy His Church. "We will bury you!" was their battle cry, and certainly the Communist governments buried hundreds of millions of victims. The collapse of that system of government led many of its followers to become Environmentalists, but also caused many to attack the Church in a more intellectual way. One method of attack is deconstruction.

Deconstruction is a technique of literary criticism invented by the French post-structuralist philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004). It takes a very broad view of 'literature': advertising, political speech, actions, art, and so forth, as well as written words are all considered 'text', and are suitable for deconstruction. Any human artifact that claims meaning or is subject to interpretation is fair game for deconstruction. The purpose of deconstruction is subversion and criticism, to cause doubt and confusion.

Deconstructionists themselves argue about what deconstruction actually is (and logically speaking, deconstruction is inconsistent), but the basics of this theory seems to be this:
  • A text cannot provide a single coherent or consistent message to its readers.

  • The writer of a text has little responsibility for the meaning of it. Impersonal forces of language, culture, and ideology control the meanings in the text. This is one of the great weaknesses of the theory.

  • Deconstructionists look for problems in language, contradictions, missing information, and assumptions in texts. They tend to highly critical in this manner, demanding nothing less than perfection.

  • Despite the intent of the author, a text will contain multiple 'voices' with conflicting viewpoints. "Many voices" is a common catchphrase among deconstructionists. This is another great weakness of the theory.

  • Western philosophy often includes binary opposites and hierarchical values, and any text that claims these to be true is considered highly dangerous and is the main target for deconstruction. The main binary opposite they like to target is that of Male and Female; deconstruction is widely used by 'gender' activists.

  • Texts themselves are seen as being tyrannical and unjust.

  • There is no 'primary meaning' of a text; deconstruction can invent alternative meanings quite easily, to the point of creating a new primary meaning opposite to the intent of the author.

  • Popular culture is more reliable than formal texts. The cartoon series The Simpsons is a favorite of deconstructionists due to its many popular culture references, and so it is considered to provide a reliable social commentary.

After deconstruction comes reconstruction. After the critic completely deconstructs the text, shredding it up, so to speak, he then starts a reconstruction. It is a more-or-less plausible reinterpretation of the text; it doesn't have to be true, or there doesn't have to be any logical consistency to it: it just is. It's all made up. A reconstruction is just another story that is put out there. So a deconstructionist will take apart a text very carefully and logically, and then in its place puts in something that he just made up. This is similar to the technique used by trial lawyers, who make up stories to benefit their client that more or less fits the facts. This will then cause confusion.

The Historical-Critical method has shredded the Bible by its overly-critical methodology, finding contradictions even where a plausible explanation can be found. Imagine a history book that mentions President John Kennedy; and elsewhere it mentions President Jack Kennedy: a highly critical analysis will say that this text is inconsistent and therefore unreliable. This is similar to what happens in deconstruction. Reconstruction can then be quite fanciful: it can then claim that Jaqueline Kennedy was actually elected President and that her sexist homophobe husband drove her out of office, stealing her power. The method can often lead to absurdity.

That is precisely how the Mary Magdalene stories were created via deconstruction. The Biblical texts were dissected, and an alternative 'voice' in the text was heard. Then they created a reconstruction where the Magdalene was the primary Apostle. Never mind that they just made this up with no evidence. The newly reconstructed story cannot be deconstructed because it does not claim primacy of binary opposites and hierarchy.

Modern nonrepresentational art can claim it is meaningless and therefore escapes deconstruction; the same thing goes to much deconstructionist writing itself: it is incoherent.

I once heard this defense of the teaching of evolution in public schools by a teacher: "Evolution may or may not be true, but it is what scientists are talking about nowadays". This is pure deconstruction: 'talking' is considered more reliable than 'text', and truth or falsity is irrelevant.

Deconstruction tends to be either nihilist or relativist, although most practitioners are more agnostic about the truth. It is interesting to observe that most deconstructionists live their lives as though they trust technology and medicine; a truly deconstructionist lifestyle would probably resemble psychosis. In actuality, deconstruction is just used against their enemies; it cannot be a general technique. It ultimatly is all about power, not truth. This is a very good reason to not take the results of it seriously.

We need to be like Socrates, who knew that the truth was out there and that we needed to find it, even though it is very difficult to find. The Deconstructionists are like the Sophists, who were highly critical of their enemies and had no regard for the truth. Subjectivity is a fact of our humanity, but we must try to filter out individual subjectivites to find the truth, instead of just stopping there and saying that truth is unknowable.

"The Way of Lights" at Shrine

The Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville, Illinois, is holding its annual Way of Lights Christmas display until January 6th. It's a mile and half long with more than a million lights.

Admission is free and is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Included is a live animal display with donkey and camel rides (but not on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

442 South De Mazenod Drive
Belleville, Illinois 62223

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Browsing in a Used Book Store

I happened to be shopping in a used book store in the Delmar Loop neighborhood of University City, Missouri, looking for some books that I could use for article references. But this is not a musty kind of store, filled with unwanted volumes selling for steep discounts, but instead it seems to be a well-managed place, selling prime-quality books at a premium price.

I was looking for some architecture and philosophy books, and there were plenty to be found. One could presuppose what might be found in this store, based on its location and clientele: the Loop is near Washington University; which is a large, wealthy secular university with Puritan roots, an East-Coast student body, and Liberal politics.

The philosophy section of the store is relatively large, and is divided into 'Western' and 'Eastern' philosophy. The 'Western' section seems to reflect a belief that the study of philosophy is only a few centuries old, and is strictly materialist. Perhaps a third of the whole is the philosophy of Postmodernism, which promotes a lazy subjectivity based on feelings and emotion. Nowhere to be found are the great pagan thinkers of the Western world, from Socrates to Plotinus, who based their theories on objective reality; nor were there any volumes on the great Medieval synthesis of these philosophies with Christianity. The 'Eastern' section, however, was made up entirely of books of dogmatic religions that hold the philosophical view of objective reality, similar to the great thinkers of the ancient West. It is not surprising then that students who want substance in their philosophy can usually find it only in the Eastern religions, especially if what is found in this bookshop is reflective of what is taught at the university.

The single exceptional book I had found was on the subject of Aesthetics, the philosophy of beauty, which according to the ancients had an objective component: beauty is not just "in the eye of the beholder", but has a universal quality.

This brings me to the art and architecture part of the store, which is prominently located near the front entrance. Modern art took up a good part of the whole, but by no means the majority. Premodern architecture completely dominated the shelves, with few volumes on modernism and its offshoots. And the books about great premodern art are usually about Catholic art. Judging from the books on these shelves, no one is interested in postconcilliar religious art. The most expensive and beautiful books were on the Cathedrals. When it comes to Truth and Beauty, perhaps the philosophers are fooled, but the artists are not.

The Christianity section of the store is large and pretty good, with only a few obviously heretical works; this section is however, located in the back of the store. If any section of the store could be called 'musty' it would be here: I didn't see any obviously new books, even though Catholic publishing seems to be making a resurgence, with many new authors. General Christian publishing is huge these days, although it is ignored by the New York Times. By contrast, the Wiccan book section is right up in the front of the shop, and has numerous new volumes. This subjective, materialist religion seems to fit in well with the subjective, materialist Western philosophy sold here.

The music section of the store was suitably highbrow, and again was dominated by the Catholic classics.

So it appears that Catholic art, music, and architecture of the past is still hugely popular, and will have a great future again when artists, musicians, and architects choose to do it—and when the Church decides to patronize it again. Our current situation is an aberration.

Catholic religion is doing OK, but could do better. The word needs to get out that it remains always relevant. The poorly effected reforms of the last several decades has mainly driven people away from the Church, leaving a spiritual vacuum now filled with new religions with unknown ends and ethics, with an aversion to truth.

Catholic philosophy is a problem child. The West has given up on faith, hope, and love, and instead embraces power. The Enlightenment philosophes erased the memory of the great Medieval synthesis of philosophy, and deluded themselves into thinking that their own had invented science, and ignore the contributions of Aristotle and Aquinas. Philosophy, which means the "love of wisdom", is a poor name for Postmodern thought, since it rejects both the concepts of love and wisdom. And some would say that "Postmodern thought" is an oxymoron, due to its incoherence. So if anyone wants to find out about truth and love, they now have to look East. This problem of philosophy is a far more difficult to cure than either art or liturgy, for it is a problem of the soul.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Though you pray the more, I will not listen

From the Office of Readings, First Sunday of Advent; the prophet Isaiah:
Hear the word of the LORD, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah!
What care I for the number of your sacrifices? says the LORD. I have had enough of whole-burnt rams and fat of fatlings; In the blood of calves, lambs and goats I find no pleasure.
When you come in to visit me, who asks these things of you?
Trample my courts no more! Bring no more worthless offerings; your incense is loathsome to me. New moon and sabbath, calling of assemblies, octaves with wickedness: these I cannot bear.
Your new moons and festivals I detest; they weigh me down, I tire of the load.
When you spread out your hands, I close my eyes to you; Though you pray the more, I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood!
Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil;
learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow.

Photo of Saint Agatha's Church, Saint Louis, Missouri

This is Saint Agatha's Church, in Saint Louis, Missouri, home of the Polish language parish.

For many years, this church had the Indult Latin Mass.

This has a very small natural territory; bounded by Interstate 55 in the foreground, and the Anheuser-Busch brewery, visible in the background. It is on the southern border of the Soulard neighborhood, an area rich with old churches.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Advent Begins

Proclaim the good news among the nations: Our God will come to save us.

Advent begins tonight at sundown, at First Vespers.

Know that the Lord is coming and with him all his saints; that day will dawn with a wonderful light, alleluia.

As Ordinary Time has been coming to a close, the scriptural readings in the liturgy has emphasized the end of the world, which is appropriate for the month of November, a month of growing darkness and cold, where we pray for the departed. Now we read about the Second Coming of Christ.

The Lord will come with mighty power; all mortal eyes shall see him.

As Advent continues, we begin to reflect on the First Coming.

Advent is a penitential season, as is Lent, but it also has a joyful character, ending with the great joy of the Christmas season.

Advent has a mixed character of joy and sorrow, an anticipation of the future judgement and a reflection on past.

Note: antiphons from Evening Prayer I, First Sunday of Advent.

Online Liturgy of the Hours change is shutting down. is taking its place, but it is a subscription site.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Books on the Holy Icons

This ecumenical set of books on Iconography are used by both the Orthodox and the Eastern Catholics.

The Iconographer's Pattern Book has over 700 prototype icons for various Saints and feast days, and the Notebook is its companion volume. The Painter's Manual is an old sourcebook from Mount Athos. The Art of the Icon is a favorite of Pope Benedict.

Traditional Eastern Iconography is far closer to the classical philosophical tradition regarding art and the artist than the modern Western view, which is too subjective.

P.S. It is annoying, but sometimes these Amazon boxes don't display properly. I can see them fine in Firefox and Internet Explorer, but not always in the Safari web browser.

Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem to Host Advent Reflection on Virgin of Guadalupe December 8-10

The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem will host an Advent reflection on Our Lady of Guadalupe, from Thursday, December 8th, to Saturday, December 10th, 2005. This will be held at the Cardinal Rigali Pastoral Center in Shrewsbury, Missouri.

The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem is a clerical institute of consecrated life, living a semi-monastic life under the Rule of St. Augustine. They celebrate the Holy Mass and the Divine Office in Latin according to the liturgical norms of 1962.

The Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday and at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, by Dom Daniel Augustine Oppenheimer.

Click on flyer for larger version.

Dr. Kenneth J. Howell is Director and Senior Fellow of the John Henry Cardinal Newman Institute of Catholic Thought. He is also Adjunct Associate Professor in the Program for the Study of Religion in the University of Illinois. Dr. Howell studied theology at Westminster Theological Seminary where he concentrated in biblical languages and systematic theology. In 1978, he was ordained a Presbyterian minister and served parishes in Florida and Indiana. After completing his Ph.D. in linguistics at Indiana University, he taught Greek, Hebrew, and Latin at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. His teaching duties involved theological research which led to his conversion to Catholicism in 1996. During this time, he obtained another Ph.D. in the history of Christianity and Science from the University of Lancaster (U.K). Dr. Howell is the author of four books and numerous articles. God's Two Books: Copernican Cosmology and Biblical Interpretation in Early Modern Science (University of Notre Dame Press, 2002) is a study of interpretative strategies employed in the emergence of Copernican cosmologies during the Scientific Revolution. Mary of Nazareth: Sign and Instrument of Christian Unity (Queenship Press, 1998) is a scriptural study of Marian doctrine. Meeting Mary Our Mother in Faith (Catholic Answers Press, 2003) is a popular explanation of Catholic beliefs about Mary. His fourth book on the Eucharist is due out from Catholic Answers soon.

Dr. Lawrence Feingold is a theologian and specialist in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. In 1990, shortly after he and his wife converted to Catholicism, he began to study Philosophy and Theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, earning a doctorate in Dogmatic Theology with highest honors in 1999, with a dissertation on The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters. For six years Dr. Feingold taught theology and philosophy to seminarians of the religious institute, Miles Christi, in Argentina.  During that time he gave numerous conferences on theology and Catholic apologetics in the Detroit area. He recently moved to St. Louis, and is now employed in the philosophical and theological formation for the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem. This fall the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem have opened a philosophical institute for seminarian formation under Dr. Feingold’s direction.

Directions to the Cardinal Rigali Pastoral Center (or call 314/792-7000)

From I-44: Exit at Murdoch. Go south on Laclede Station Rd. Cardinal Rigali Center is approx. 1.6 miles, on the left (immediately after Kenrick Manor Dr.).

From I-40: Exit Hanley south. Go approx. 3.5 miles (street name changes to Laclede Station Rd.); Cardinal Rigali Center is on the left (immediately after Kenrick Manor Dr.).

From I-55: Take I-270 North to Tesson Ferry, approx. 2 miles. Go north on Tesson Ferry approx. 4 miles; Tesson Ferry changes to S. Rock Hill Rd. at Gravois. Go approx. 1 miles on S. Rock Hill; turn right onto Laclede Station Rd. Cardinal Rigali Center is ahead on right approx. 1.5 miles.

Please register in advance to reserve a seat and to help us calculate attendance! Registration: $10 Friday, $15 Saturday. Credit cards accepted (although payment by check is preferred).

For more information and registration, please contact Marsha Feingold at 636-536-3229 (leave message); or email at lawrencefeingold (at) sbcglobal (dot) net, or mail directly to: Marsha Feingold / 16365 Westboro Circle Dr. / Chesterfield, MO 63017

Checks payable to the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photos of the Missouri State Capitol Building

My previous post mentioned a new ballot initiative in the State of Missoui, so I thought I'd post some of my photos of the capitol building taken back in October. Click on any photo for a larger version.

This building was contructed and decorated in the early 20th century, and so it is beautiful and rich in iconic artwork. Here is a painting of an early missionary. It is one of many paintings showing early Missouri life; others include Native Americans, a Spanish Governor, tradesmen, and scientists.

A facteur, trading in furs. Their trading posts were known as "factories".

The interior of the dome. Since their revival in the Renaissance, domes became a common element of important buildings.

The ceiling of the Senate chamber.

Here is the House chamber. On the frieze are the words KNOWLEDGE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY, LAW, JUSTICE, FRATERNITY, and EDUCATION, all of which are Enlightenment ideals. Perhaps a contemporary building would instead use these words: entitlement, money, sex, irony, empowerment, subjectivity, and punitive lawsuits.

Part of the famous mural by Thomas Hart Benton. On the far wall are paintings symbolizing Saint Louis on the left and Kansas City on the right. Over the door is a painting of Frankie shooting Johnny, who, according to a popular song, "did her wrong". Benton's student, Jackson Pollock, became a pioneer in abstract art. We're still waiting for a return to realism.

The Ten Commandments monument outside of the capitol. These monuments are legal, and the Supreme Court has said so. Originally, the ACLU fought the placement of these monuments, but the addition of Jewish, Christian, secular, and even an esoteric symbol made it acceptable.

The sun sets over the capitol.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Stem Cell Television Commercials on the Air in Missouri

The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures is airing pro-cloning research television commercials. This is an unprecedented effort—airing commercials for a petition drive. This petition would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November 2006. This effort is an ongoing part of the culture war, and assumes a new meaning of "human life".

  • One commercial features former Senator and Episcopalian priest John Danforth. He says that he always voted pro-life and that he supports this initiative. Sen. Danforth is now a great disappointment to many pro-lifers, for he always seemed to be a man of principle. Other politicians, in contrast, are quite crass in 'doing it for the money' promised by biotechnology companies.

  • The other commercial states that stem cells could provide cures for diabetes, Parkinson's, ALS, cancer, heart disease and spinal cord injury. It displays text that reads: "Some politicians in Jefferson City want to ban stem cell research and cures in Missouri": however, in the audio portion it says "important types of stem cell research", which is more accurate; they only want to ban embryonic stem cell research, not stem cell research in general.

Stem cells are able to change into various other types of organ cells, such as blood cells, heart cells, liver cells, etc. Bone marrow therapy is the oldest known stem cell treatment; where stem cells are extracted from a person and then added back into the body after leukemia treatment. This is usually effective. Recently, it has been determined that a patient's own stem cells can be coaxed into forming bone and heart cells for treating bone cancer and heart damage. Juvenile diabetes has been cured in mice using their own stem cells.

Until recently it was assumed that 'adult' stem cells—which includes those taken from discarded umbilical cords and baby teeth—could only be coaxed into transforming into a limited range of tissue types. This led to fetal stem cell research, where stem cells were taken from aborted babies; it is well-known that these stem cells can become any cell type in the body. Fetal stem cells were used unsuccessfully in treatment, leading to tumors and inappropriate cell types; also, since these cells were genetically different from the patient, there was also immune rejection.

This current ballot initiative wants to legalize and fund the research of therapeutic cloning. This type of therapy would create embryos, clones of the patient, from which fetal stem cells can be extracted and used for treatment. This would greatly reduce or eliminate immune rejection in the patient.

Although technically this is already cloning, the initiative would prevent "reproductive" cloning; that is, creating an identical twin of the patient, and implanting it in a uterus leading to pregnancy and birth. Initiative supporters make the strange assertion that a fetus created though natural fertilization is human, while if created through cloning is not. "Dolly the sheep" was not really a sheep? Baaaa!

Fetal stem-cell research will kill fetuses, or humans in an early state of development. It will also require vast numbers of donor eggs from young women, which puts them at risk of danger to health and exploitation in this new and bizarre form of prostitution.

We must have pity on those who suffer from diseases and who hope that new therapies will bring them back to health. The pro-cloning forces are using feeling and emotion in their campaign, more than right reason. This feeling can get out of control: one man, testifying before the Missouri Senate, admitted that he would be willing to kill a young girl—his own daughter's age—if that would ensure that his own daughter would be cured of her disease.

The pro-life view is that adult stem-cell research is laudatory and should be encouraged. Fetal stem-cell research is likewise immoral and should be discouraged.

At the core of all life issues is the definition of human life and personhood. The pro-life view generally holds personhood and human life to be identical, and that a fetus is just a person and human at an early state of development. This is similar to the idea that an acorn is a oak, but just not a fully developed one. Modern ideas, perhaps best formed in the writings of Peter Singer, hold that not all humans are persons, and that not all persons are human. In this theory, an infant or a person in a coma may be a human, but not a person; likewise an ape, alien life form, or intelligent computer program may be a person but not a human. Personhood is then left up to the decision of a court, ethics committee, or government edict, instead of the simple and reasonable equality of humans and persons, under all conditions and states of development.

The traditional philosophy has an objective view of human life, a view that does not depend on internal mental states. The modern philosophy is based on subjectivism and relativism. According to the new theory, a 'person' is a moral agent who is capable of making moral choices and holding values, and who is held in value by other persons. This clearly can exclude many classes of humans from personhood, such as children until the age of reason (seven or eight years of age), and logically, even humans that are asleep. More troubling, a person may be mentally healthy, but because of defects or handicaps, may be valued less as a person. Also, the genocides of the 20th century may be justifiable under this theory due to the loss of personhood: these people were not held in value by others.

The modern philosophical argument eventually ends up being just an argument in favor of the strong against the weak. The initiative is funded and supported by wealthy biotechnology companies, and will be supported by tax dollars from the state. The least powerful among us, tiny infants, will be routinely killed as part of the research. Large numbers of women, probably from poor countries, will be used for donor eggs. The worst problem is its view of human life as something expendable for the cause of progress.

Unless a miracle occurs, the initiative will probably pass. We need to convert ourselves before we can hope of converting society.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Photos of Saint Patrick Mission - Armagh

Here are photos of Saint Patrick's Mission - Armagh, the "Old Rock Church", in Catawissa, Missouri, which is about 42 highway miles southwest of downtown Saint Louis, Missouri.

The settlement of Armagh was set up as a refuge for Irish immigrants. It is located in the rugged Ozarks, and the Irish had Indians and Kentucky frontiersmen as neighbors.

The first church was made of logs and was serviced by missionary priests who had a difficult horseback journey from Saint Louis.

There are Gothic details inside and out of this church.

The plaque next to the door reads:


Archdiocesan website of mission:
Preservation society's web site, with extensive historical information:

150 Rock Church Road
Catawissa, Missouri 63015

Photos taken on New Year's Eve 2004

Carpatho-Ruthenian Divine Liturgy

My parents today asked me "What is Carpatho-Ruthenian?" This is regarding the post Photos of Some Side-Chapels of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. It is an eastern rite of the Catholic Church, and has a liturgy and spirituality similar to Orthodox Christians.

Erase that Madonna and Black Sabbath from your iPodand instead put in some Carpatho-Ruthenian plain chant. This web site has hours of recordings of the Divine Office, the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and the music is in English and Slavonic.

The Metropolitan Cantor Institute is a great resource for Byzantine sacred music: This site includes recordings, sheet music, and the text of the Divine Office.

The Institute is a part of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

Byzantine Catholic parishes of this Eparchy are located in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

The Archeparchy operates SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary:

The Byzantine Catholic Church in America:


Apparently, it's been leaked. There doesn't seem to be anything in it that wasn't expected:

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Photos of Some Side-Chapels of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

Here are some side-chapels within the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis. This cathedral was started in 1907, and the nave generally is in the Byzantine style, with a vast collection of mosaics. The side chapels are quite distinctive, but these little photos don't do them justice. Click on any photo for a larger version.

This is the Blessed Virgin's Chapel, where I once attended a Carpatho-Ruthenian Divine Liturgy. Pope John Paul II prayed here in 1999. It is in the Italian style and was designed by Tiffany & Company of New York.

This is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The Sacrament is reserved here in the tabernacle, and the chapel is for private prayer only. The red mosaics in the arches continues the red ceiling of the ambulatory, which symbolizes the blood of Christ.

This is All Soul's Chapel, burial place for Cardinal Glennon, Cardinal Ritter and Archbishop May. The black marble signifies death, and the white marble symbolizes eternal life. The statue on the altar is of the Resurrected Christ. The chapel is said to be in the "Viennese Secessionist" style.

I was unable to take a photo of the other major chapel in the Cathedral, All Saints Chapel (designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany), since a priest was instructing altar servers on the Mass. Remarkably, these side-chapels are simple compared to the rest of the Cathedral. Photographing the interior is difficult, and I need to refine my technique.

Statue of Saint Louis IX, King of France, holding the relic of the Crown of Thorns. This statue faces the All Souls Chapel.

Photo of the "Rock Church"

This is Saint Alphonsus Ligouri church in Saint Louis. It is called the "Rock Church", located at 1118 North Grand Avenue at Cook, just north of Saint Louis University.

The church is staffed by the Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris, Redemptorists of the Denver Province; the church is named after the founder of the order. The Redemptorist also locally run Liguori Publications, in the northern Jefferson County town of Liguori, Missouri.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Martin Duggan Gives Talk on Educational Freedom

Martin Duggan, former editorial page editor of the Saint Louis Globe-Democrat and host of the Emmy-award winning KETC Channel 9 discussion show Donnybrook, gave a talk on freedom of education in Missouri.

Public education originally meant public funding for all schools. Until the 1950s, private and parochial elementary and high school children had textbooks and transportation paid for by public funding, just like the public schools. An activist Supreme Court and agitation from groups—including most notably the Klan—eliminated this funding. Now state funds go to publicly-owned schools. The status quo is now supported by the teachers' unions and allied politicians, leading to great injustice, namely, the lack of parental control over education.

Martin said that parents have the primary right of educating children, which is very much under attack now.

In 1959, Martin's wife Mae Duggan founded Citizens for Educational Freedom (, the first organization in the United States dedicated to educational freedom. This organization promotes school vouchers, which will allow parents to send their children to any school. The organization was praised by President Ronald Reagan and by Milton Friedman.

Martin noted that today, November 18, is the feast day of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, Saint Louisan and founder of the first free school west of the Mississippi River.

Martin made the analogy between the fight for educational freedom and the creed of the United States Marine Corps. He also quoted Churchill, in stating that we will never, never, never, give up.

Closing remarks were made by Victor Wendl. He noted that public schools are the only government entitlement that requires spending in government-owned institutions, unlike Medicare, Food Stamps, or even higher education. The spending on public schools is the largest part of the state budget, and is growing quickly. Victor stated that a major problem with promoting school vouchers is the view of many rural Missourians who are happy with the unity of their local institutions: in many small towns, everyone goes to the high school football game on Saturday, and then worship in the same Protestant church on Sunday morning. In these towns, there is a great fear that under a voucher system, children may leave the area to go to city Catholic schools, and then eventually Catholic schools will move in and start making converts, disrupting the social order. Victor also said that local school superintendents have great power and influence over state legislators.

Invocation and Benediction was given by Rev. Msgr. Jerome Sommer, new pastor at St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish (the Rock Church), who mentioned the great success at Cardinal Ritter College Prep, Central Catholic, and the Jesuit St. Matthew School, all in north Saint Louis. These schools educate urban children to a far higher standard than the un-accredited St. Louis public school system, at a far lower cost per child.

About Citizens for Educational Freedom:
Our membership consists of citizens and supporting groups of every race, color, creed, and party.

Our purpose is to promote the primary rights of parents to freedom of choice, justice and quality in education for all.

We support policies which will allocate a fair share of educational tax dollars for each child to take to the school their parents choose, while protecting parents and schools from undue government regulation and control.

Educational Freedom means:

  • Parental choice

  • Equal treatment under the law for all families

  • Fair Competition among schools

  • improved educational quality

  • Taxpayer savings

  • Religious liberty

Citizens for Educational Freedom
9333 Clayton Road
Saint Louis, MO 63124-1511

Phone: (314) 997-6361

Nationalism in our country has led to education being controlled and funded at ever-higher levels of government, and ends up promoting philosophies that are popular with the political elite. With the new Foundation Formula of funding in the State of Missouri, funds are no longer controlled at even the school board level, but are controlled by the State. The Federal Government is also spending much money and is adding additional layers of control. A recent Federal District Court ruling even says that parents have no say in the education of their children.

The educational cost per child is more than $11,000 per year in the City of Saint Louis. These schools are not accredited, are dangerous, and provide some of the worst education in the world.

By contrast, the Catholic educational system, although a part of an international heirarchical organization, is funded locally by parents at the level of the individual school. Some of these Catholic schools are bad and are closed, while others flourish. These schools are inexpensive, and the level of education is second only to the most expensive of private schools.

The United States has the best university system in the world, while our public primary and secondary education is worse than even many desperately poor African countries. Money has never been a solution to fixing this problem. This came about because of the monopoly in early education: higher education does not have a monopoly, so each school must be careful to provide a good education, otherwise it will fail. Primary and secondary education, however, is not allowed to fail, no matter how bad it gets; it just gets more funding. Even atheists, long-time proponents of public education, are getting disgusted by low quality and political meddling, and are setting up their own private schools.

I am convinced that every type of education and educational philosophy has at its core a religious element to it—or the philosophical equivalent to the basic beliefs of religion.

Originally, schools were funded without regard to religion, so we had mainly Protestant schools and Catholic schools, with a prominent number of "progressive" or atheist schools in the mix, all funded by the taxpayer. School consolidation and lawsuits led to the adoption of the philosophy of Deism, where the abstract God of the Enlightenment is invoked; it is this conception of God that is on our money and in our Pledge of Allegiance. Lawsuits by atheists led to wholesale adoption of the "progressive" philosophy of education. Very quickly the Marxist roots of this type of education lost support due to the horrors of Communism, while a new Environmentalist world-view, which is a form of pantheism, became popular.

Our current public school philosophy tends to atheism or indifferentism, and now is becoming pantheistic or syncretic. Is it a surprise that large numbers of our youth say that they are "spiritual but not religious"? Where did they get this idea? Schools that attempt a philosophy of pluralism necessarily falls into the trap of promoting or assuming one of these philosophies which is incompatable with Christianity. Religious liberty demands parental freedom of school choice.

Never surrender.

Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

Today is the Feast of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne, co-patroness of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Diocese of Kansas City in Kansas, as well as the principal patroness of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

Photos of the shrine.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917:
Founder in America of the first houses of the society of the Sacred Heart, born at Grenoble, France, 29 August, 1769; died at St. Charles, Missouri, 18 October, 1852. She was the daughter of Pierr-Francois Duchesne, an eminent lawyer. Her mother was a Périer, ancestor of Casimir Périer, President of France in 1894. She was educated by the visitation Nuns, entered that order, saw its dispersion during the Reign of Terror, vainly attempted the re-establishment of the convent of Ste-Marie-d'en-Haunt, near Grenoble, and finally, in 1804, accepted the offer of Mother Barat to receive her community into the Society of the Sacred Heart. From early childhood the dream of Philippine had been the apostolate of souls: heathen in distant lands, the neglected and poor at home. Nature and grace combined to fit her for this high vocation; education, suffering, above all, the guidance of Mother Barat trained her to become the pioneer of her order in the New world. In 1818 Mother Duchesne set out with four companions for the missions of America. Bishop Dubourg welcomed her to New Orleans, whence she sailed up the Mississippi to St. Louis, finally settling her little colony at St. Charles. "Poverty and Christian heroism are here", she wrote, "and trials are the riches of priests in this land." Cold, hunger, and illness; opposition, ingratitude, and calumny, all that came to try the courage of this missioner, served only to fire her lofty and indomitable spirit with new zeal for the spread of truth. Other foundations followed, at Florissant, Grand Côteau, New Orleans, St. Louis, St. Michael; and the approbation of the society in 1826 by Leo XII recognized the good being done in these parts. She yearned to teach the poor Indians, and old and broken as she was, she went to labour among the Pottowatomies at Sugar Creek, thus realizing the desire of her life. Stirred by the recitals of Father De Smet, S.J., she turned her eyes towards the Rocky Mountain missions; but Providence led her back to St. Charles, where she died. Thirty-four years of mission toil, disappointment, endurance, self-annihilation sufficed, indeed, to prove the worth of this valiant daughter of Mother Barat. She had opened the road, others might walk in it; and the success hidden from her eyes was well seen later by the many who rejoiced in the rapid spread of her order over North and South America. Sincere, intense, generous, austere yet affectionate, endowed with large capacity for suffering and work, Mother Duchesne's was a stern character that needed and took the moulding of Mother Barat.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Into Great Silence - a film

Coming soon to theaters near you! The documentary, Die Große Stille (Into Great Silence), by German filmaker Philip Gröning, was filmed inside of the Great Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps. This was the first Carthusian monastery, founded in 1084 by St. Bruno. The first twenty minutes of the film is mainly silent, while the only music on the soundtrack is of the monks themselves chanting.

The Carthusians:

Monday, November 14, 2005

On the Holy Icons

We appear to be nearing the end of an iconoclastic age of that has stripped our churches bare of ornament and objects of reverence. This smashing of sacred images has happened before, and the Second Council of Nicea in A.D. 787 was called by the Church to condemn this.

Excerpt from the decrees of the Council, from the EWTN library:
...We declare that we defend free from any innovations all the—written and—unwritten ecclesiastical traditions that have been entrusted to us.

One of these is the production of representational art; this is quite in harmony with the history of the spread of the gospel, as it provides confirmation that the becoming man of the Word of God was real and not just imaginary, and as it brings us a similar benefit. For, things that mutually illustrate one another undoubtedly possess one another's message.

Given this state of affairs and stepping out as though on the royal highway, following as we are the God-spoken teaching of our holy fathers and the tradition of the catholic church — for we recognize that this tradition comes from the holy Spirit who dwells in her—we decree with full precision and care that, like the figure of the honoured and life-giving cross, the revered and holy images, whether painted or made of mosaic or of other suitable material, are to be exposed in the holy churches of God, on sacred instruments and vestments, on walls and panels, in houses and by public ways, these are the images of our Lord, God and saviour, Jesus Christ, and of our Lady without blemish, the holy God-bearer, and of the revered angels and of any of the saintly holy men.

The more frequently they are seen in representational art, the more are those who see them drawn to remember and long for those who serve as models, and to pay these images the tribute of salutation and respectful veneration. Certainly this is not the full adoration (latria) in accordance with our faith, which is properly paid only to the divine nature, but it resembles that given to the figure of the honoured and life-giving cross, and also to the holy books of the gospels and to other sacred cult objects. Further, people are drawn to honour these images with the offering of incense and lights, as was piously established by ancient custom. Indeed, the honour paid to an image traverses it, reaching the model, and he who venerates the image, venerates the person represented in that image.

So it is that the teaching of our holy fathers is strengthened, namely, the tradition of the catholic church which has received the gospel from one end of the earth to the other.

So it is that we really follow Paul, who spoke in Christ, and the entire divine apostolic group and the holiness of the fathers, clinging fast to the traditions which we have received.

So it is that we sing out with the prophets the hymns of victory to the church: "Rejoice exceedingly O daughter of Zion, proclaim O daughter of Jerusalem; enjoy your happiness and gladness with a full heart. The Lord has removed away from you the injustices of your enemies, you have been redeemed from the hand of your foes. The Lord the king is in your midst, you will never more see evil, and peace will be upon you for time eternal."

Therefore all those who dare to think or teach anything different, or who follow the accursed heretics in rejecting ecclesiastical traditions, or who devise innovations, or who spurn anything entrusted to the church (whether it be the gospel or the figure of the cross or any example of representational art or any martyr's holy relic), or who fabricate perverted and evil prejudices against cherishing any of the lawful traditions of the catholic church, or who secularize the sacred objects and saintly monasteries, we order that they be suspended if they are bishops or clerics, and excommunicated if they are monks or lay people.

Anathemas concerning holy images:

  • If anyone does not confess that Christ our God can be represented in his humanity, let him be anathema.

  • If anyone does not accept representation in art of evangelical scenes, let him be anathema.

  • If anyone does not salute such representations as standing for the Lord and his saints, let him be anathema.

  • If anyone rejects any written or unwritten tradition of the church, let him be anathema.

This is the authoritative teaching of the Church. The Eastern Churches celebrate this as a feast on the first Sunday of Great Lent, the "Triumph of Orthodoxy".

The first iconoclastic crisis started in 726, when Byzantine Emperor Leo III (the Isaurian) made an edict ordering the destruction of holy images and relics; he was directly influenced by Islam in this attitude. Countless holy pictures and relics of the Saints were destroyed, including items of clothing worn by the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Pope and Eastern monastics were the main opponents of the iconoclasts, and this led the emperor to destroy monasteries and torture and kill many monks. Things got even worse under subsequent emperors, but Irene, wife of Emperor Leo IV, remained steadfastly orthodox, and after his death, started the Ecumenical Council that restored the veneration of icons.

There were abuses with the images, for example, receiving the Eucharist from the hands of a statue of Our Lord. But this was not the reason why the Emperor acted, for he was mainly interested in ecumenical relations.

This is an example of someone, for the sake of ecumenism, saying that we must change in order to be acceptable to others. During the recent Synod in Rome, the heterodox group 'Call to Action' said that the Church needed to eliminate the doctrines of the Eucharist so that we could have better ecumenical relations with Protestants. Never mind that this would destroy relations with the Orthodox and the tens of millions of Traditional Anglicans who are considering changing loyalties from Canterbury to Rome.

Iconoclasm is often seen among heretics, especially those who think that matter is evil, and incapable of forming holy objects. I've noticed a trend among exclusively spiritual religions: they avoid holy images completely, but often end up reveling in the profane instead. Just look what happened to the Puritan movement: it started as a purely spiritual religion, plain, simple, with no ornament, then became fantastically wealthy, and now the tail-end of the movement uncritically embraces the sexually libertine lifestyle with all of its perverse art forms. The Cathars ended up the same way, starting with extreme asceticism, but ending in wild abandon. The Catholic position is anchored midway between the spiritual and the material, with the body on earth, and the head in heaven.

Orthodox churches I've seen have many portable icons and accessible reliquaries. The icons are often right there, easily picked up and venerated. Relics are also exposed for general veneration and not locked up in the sacristy safe. One reliquary I saw had dozens of Saints, right at waist level under glass. Icons are an integral part of Eastern Liturgy. Not surprisingly, the Orthodox say that Latin Catholics are semi-iconoclastic, because the icons are high up on the wall, cannot be directly venerated, and are only rarely used in the Liturgy. Actually, they musn't have seen modern Catholic churches, or otherwise they would have said that we are fully in iconoclastic heresy!

Pope Benedict XVI, in his book the Spirit of the Liturgy, agrees with the Orthodox theology of icons and says that it should be normative for the Catholic Church, although she shouldn't duplicate the Orthodox canons on making the images.

The traditional form of the icons, with the elongated shapes of bodies, is often unattractive to western eyes, even though the style traditionally goes back as far as Saint Luke the Evanglist, painting a portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During the 1960s there was a great interest in all things Eastern in the Latin Church, but unfortunately artists thought that the icons looked like something Picasso might have made, and often ended up making pseudo-icons in the modern style.

The main point of eastern iconography seems to be lost on many westerners. The icon artist needs to be a virtuous person, morally, intellectually, and spiritually, and he makes a Platonic image of that which is in Heaven. In this way, the icon is not an end in itself, either for the icon maker or for the viewers of the icon. Westerners tend to see art as an end it itself, while western artists tend to see their art as the reason or meaning of their existence. Both these attitudes must change before the proper use and appreciation for the icons will be possible in the Latin Church.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Speech given by Bishop Thomas G. Doran, of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois

On Tuesday, November 8th, bishop Doran of the Diocese of Rockford gave a speech on the Criteria for Admission to a Catholic Seminary. This talk was hosted by the Catholic Central Union and Credo of the Catholic Laity at the Annual Christ the King Dinner.

The norms for admission to seminary as promulgated at the Second Vatican Council were quite high, and many dioceses aren't even living up to these standards. He discussed the absolute requirement for priestly celibacy, and how modern practice subverts the formation of young men. Bishop Doran stated that the seminary system was set up after the Council of Trent for reasons similar to what we are experiencing now: in the Renaissance, young men were sent to secular universities for their priestly education, and got caught up in the worldly excitement of the big city, with alcohol, parties, girls, and fraternities. Seminaries were set up to avoid these distractions, to better form holy priests.

At one point during his talk, Bishop Doran said that his biggest problem was money, and pointing to Archbishop Burke, said "you know what I mean". Healthcare benefits for retirees is the major cost, followed by lawsuits.

The solution for these problems is increased vocations to the religious life, and tort reform. Our problems are both spiritual and worldly. We need to make healthcare a charity again instead of a business or government service. We need to eliminate punitive damages in lawsuits.

The loss of vocations is due to loss of faith, while the vast increase of lawsuit damages is due to greed.

We've got a lot of work ahead of us. Pray for assistance.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps -- A book review

I just finished reading Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps, by Barbara and Allan Pease, published in 2001. The title gives a good overview of roughly the first half of the contents. This book is a quick read, informative, and is entertaining, but it is also rather explicit in places, and it contains an apologia for homosexuality.

The book describes and explains several key differences between the sexes, as its title suggests. It is completely secular, and is based on evolutionary biology, medical studies, and surveys. The authors claim to be politically incorrect in their analysis, and that is a refreshing diversion from the Marxist-inspired political oppression of Feminism.

The main point of the book is that men and women think and act differently—as a biological fact, not caused by social conditioning—and takes the true philosophical stance that differences in kind are not differences in value. Both chauvinists and feminists make the same mistake, that to be different in kind is to be different in value: because of this, feminists think that there is no difference between men and women, while chauvinists think that one sex is superior to the other even though they are not comparing the same attributes.

The equal ontological value of all persons is very Catholic, with roots going back to ancient Israel, and it is such an important concept and matter of faith because we can demonstrate that it is true. Stray from orthodoxy and you get slavery, chauvinism, feminism, and genocide.

I found the first part of the book more enjoyable, since it is anecdotal, humorous, and sometimes painfully familiar. For example:
  • Women tend to be able to do many things at one time, and can carry on multiple conversations at one time, while overhearing other conversations. Men tend to talk in turn, using fewer words and a much more concrete vocabulary.

  • Men usually cannot both listen to conversation and to either read, work or watch television. A man engrossed in his work or reading is nearly psychologically deaf.

  • Women use words in a fluid fashion: 'yes', 'no', 'always', and 'never' do not have definite, absolute meanings.

  • A woman's hearing is tuned to the shrill cry of a baby; a man's hearing is tuned to distant sounds of motion. Both will instantly wake up from sleep if their particular kind of sound is present, and will usually sleep though the other.

  • Men tend to be able to imagine things in three dimensions, and is able to mentally rotate both two and three-dimensional models. Women usually can't imagine in three dimensions, and find it difficult to even rotate a mental image in two dimensions.

  • Men tend to be able to use maps for navigation, are able to discern North without a compass or celestial clues, and can recall large amounts of spatial information. With a good map, a man can usually find his way just knowing the starting and ending point. Women tend to be frustrated by maps, and tend to turn them in the direction that they are going. Women tend to need many landmark descriptions and left-right directions for navigation; men more often can use distance and compass directions.

  • Women have a broader field of view, and can observe activity without turning the head or moving the eyes. Men's eye focus is typically much narrower, requiring head-turning and staring for observation.

  • Men excel at activities that require analysis of motion, velocity, and position. Women have a terrible time parallel parking.

  • Men typically can't lie to a woman, since she can pick up on subconscious nonverbal clues.

  • Women, upon entering a crowded room, size up the people and their relationships. Men tend to mentally map out the room, seek entry and exit points, food locations, and analyze the state of repair of the building structure.

  • Women usually excel at jobs requiring close human relationships and multitasking. Men usually excel at jobs that require numerical, spatial and motion ability.

  • Men naturally form themselves into hierarchies, choosing the best as their leaders, and making decisions by debate. Women form small collaborative groups, where aggressiveness is frowned upon.

  • Men overwhelmingly identify themselves with their work. Women overwhelmingly identify themselves with their relationships.

  • Women show and use facial expressions far more than men do. Men tend to avoid the use of facial expression.

  • Men tend to need a lot of silence for thinking, planning, and relaxation. Women use silence as a sign of rejection.

  • Women need to talk out problems, and will be restless and "mind-racing" if unable to hold a conversation. Men tend to be able to compartmentalize thoughts silently

  • Men under stress talk less. Women under stress talk more.

  • Men tend to be able to utilize statistics, numerical measures, and charts.

  • Women tend to be able to distinguish more colors and odors.

  • Women tend to be far more sensitive to touch than men.

  • Women tend to better nurses, primary school teachers, interpreters, manual detail workers, and secretaries. Men tend to be better ball players, engineers, scientists, tradesmen, architects, and accountants. In school systems where an equal sex ratio between teachers is enforced, women dominate conversational language courses, and men dominate the sciences.

Since this is a modern book, the authors take great pains to provide scientific evidence for these conclusions, although some of them are "duh" moments, kind of like a scientific study that determines conclusively that fish, generally, live in water, although it is not certain whether it is due to genetic, environmental, or social conditioning. Scientists are known for often lacking common sense.

These sex differences are shown to be generally due to differences in brain structure. Men have specialized portions of the brain for navigation, aiming, catching, estimating velocities, and generating three-dimensional mental maps. Women have specialized centers for speech and hearing. When a person lacks these centers of specialization, more thought is required, and they tend to be either incapable or very slow at doing these tasks.

The authors state that hormone exposure during early pregnancy causes this brain specialization, and since this process is somewhat separate from primary sexual development, variations in these hormones is what causes an inclination to homosexuality. These variations during pregnancy are typically due to excessive stress in the mother, although some common drugs prescribed in the 1950s and 1960s had a great affect. The authors completely discount social factors after birth.

The book is full of practical advice to avoid conflict between the sexes.
  • For men: talk more, actively listen more, be generally nice and gentle to women.

  • For women: talk less, express requests in a concrete and direct manner, give a man plenty of time alone.

Generally, the authors suggest that we need to accept human nature and not try to force-fit people into roles for which they are ill-suited. This is a step towards right reason. Virtues, after all, have an objective component, but are also affected by each individual's circumstances, nature, and state of mind.

The last part of the book talks about sex and relationships. It sees monogamy as being basically the desire of women and is for the good of society. It rejects the feminists' masculine sexuality as being against the nature of most women. That is obvious for a ten year old kid I saw that the feminists of that era were not like other women, and were changing society for their own selfish desires and not for the good of the majority of women.

Catholicism has a rational view of morality that is based in human nature, and it rejects modern theories like utilitarianism and feminism that denies this nature. Traditional Catholicism has long had specific roles for men and women that used their separate abilities in a wise and natural manner. Much nonsense of the past several decades is due to a thoughtless egalitarianism that says that men and women are the same in both kind and value.

Men are hierarchical in their social structure, granting leadership to the strong and just. God, however, is the strongest and the most just: he can and does lay waste to nations and grants plenty or allows famine to rule the land; men can recognize this, and therefore can naturally organize themselves into a hierarchy with God at the top. That the priesthood and ecclesial structure is hierarchical is quite natural to men. But men can willfully obey his superior only as long as the superior is just and orthodox; having a heretic as a leader is distressing to men. Men who are drawn to the current heresy in the Church seem to be feminine thinkers, who don't respect authority, and who work through personal relationships instead of the chain of command. A masculine religion that completely excluded women would lack the social aspects of caring for the sick and poor and teaching the very young, and would tend to be violently expansionist.

Women are more collaborative, seeing each other as friends and expecting equal treatment. Women in the Church excel in upholding the Communion of Saints and popular devotion. It is the women who raise the next generation of Catholics, women who form prayer groups, and women who rule the parish hall. Historically, women made up the vast majority of Religious, and did the bulk of the social aspects of the Church. Women tend to have great devotions to the Saints, who are just like us, and are our friends. Feminine-only religion has its problems. Seeing God—the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth—as just a good friend can lead to tremendous disappointment when things go badly. Anglican Priestesses are notorious for having heretical New Age views, as do many 'masculinized' female religious orders in the Catholic Church. I've noticed that women who attempt to do what most men do naturally often end up being perverse imitations of the worst sort of men. Also, women can end up spending much money on superstition: occultists prey almost entirely on women, for women like the intuitive aspect of things like fortune telling. Modern 'spiritual' foods and cosmetics that promise "salvation through consumption" can be very expensive: "Whole Foods" supermarkets has the disparaging nickname "Whole Paycheck". For this reason, the spiritual goods of the Church are always and everywhere free of charge, by Canon Law; we had the Reformation when this was ignored.

Women have been key to upholding the Church under extreme persecution. It was women and just one boy who were with Christ when he was on the Cross, while the men ran and hid. In the days of the Soviet Union, mainly women would attend Divine Liturgy, even when being spied on by the State, and up to 80% of all children were baptised, thanks to the women who defied the authorities.

Societies where women do the architecture are societies that live in huts made of sticks covered with mud; women just want or have to do too much else than spend much time constructing a house. Societies where men do the architecture have complex, large, beautiful, and durable buildings. The hierarchical organization of men leads to specialized trades that are expert in certain fields, and when these groups organize themselves under a leader with clear direction, great buildings can be made. Feminized architecture emphasizes passing trends, is built cheaply, and tends to be horizontal. Modern churches, which have a congregational feel, allow the parishoners to see each other, while masuline church architecture is vertical, with the order of worship towards the altar. Also, masculine architecture is far more three-dimensional, while feminine architecture has a simpler two-dimensional structural aspect. Modern architecture often is an inversion of the natural male/female exterior/interior emphasis, with simplistic, cheap structures and cold, brutal interiors, instead of the natural complex and durable exteriors, and warm, loving, and comfortable interiors.

The institution of marriage, as seen by the authors of the book, is primarily based on the desire of women and is for the good of society. Catholic Natural Law sees this in a somewhat similar fashion, and holds marriage in the highest esteem. This is a Sacrament that is overwhelmingly dominated by women, and in Catholic theology, is performed by the couple themselves and merely witnessed by a Priest or Deacon. The evidence shows that the weakening of the institution of marriage that started in the Reformation has been more directly harmful to women and children than to men, and attempted solutions to these problems has led to a vast reorganization of society and an expensive government.

The authors of this book emphasize that men need to romance women for long-term happiness, and that couples who marry or move in together while still in an initial infatuation may be headed for trouble. The authors say that this stage lasts for about three to six months. Catholic custom, law, and moral theology demands extended courtships, a minimum of six months, and prohibits "shotgun weddings" and "marriages of convenience". Not surprisingly, by following the rules, marriage will take place only after the infatuation stage is over. Also, the art of romance is greatest in Catholic countries: men must put a great effort into wooing a woman long enough to marry her; this is most true if sexual activity is delayed until after the wedding. Formerly Catholic countries like France have recently changed to an American-style infatuation-based, romance-free dating life, which usually does not lead to marriage, but just a long series of broken relationships that end when infatuation is over.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

How Charles Carroll Influenced U.S. Founding Fathers

See the article, How Charles Carroll Influenced U.S. Founding Fathers from la nouvelle théologie ( The "Whig view" of American history, popular until the 1960s, ignored some aspects of the Revolution: "...the Founding Fathers, in their recovery of natural law and in other ways ...unknowingly reinvented the Catholic political tradition...".

The Founders naturally rejected the objectively immoral systems of Absolutism and the "Divine Right of Kings"; however, their faith in the parliamentary system of the Puritans was shattered by the Intolerable Acts. While the Founders were seeking good political theory, Charles Carroll reintroduced the traditional notion of the "Natural Law", which forms the philosophical basis of Catholic moral teaching and is the background of the Common Law of England.

Natural Law principles in American Jurisprudence were weakened over time, never being really understood, and have been essentially abandoned by the 1970s.

English Common Law developed under that nation's Catholic era. Formerly, disputes between parties were settled by "Trial by Battle" where the strongest won, or by appeals to superstition in the "Trial by Ordeal". Ecclesiastical courts changed matters by developing a rational and moral method of justice in the philosophical tradition of Plato, Aristotle, Roman jurisprudence, and the Doctors of the Church. But now the Common Law tradition has been lost and the old moral order is gone; instead social change is decided by new kind of Trial by Battle, where the strongest still win.

We hope that the new Supreme Court can reintroduce morality and rationality back into the American legal system.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dies iræ

Posted November 2nd, 2005, All Souls Day

Dies iræ, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla:
teste David cum Sibylla.

Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando iudex est venturus
cuncta stricte discussurus!

(Day of wrath, day that
will dissolve the world into burning coals,
as David bore witness with the Sibyll.

How great a tremor is to be,
when the judge is to come
briskly shattering every grave.)
—First stanzas of the 13th Century poem Dies iræ

Dies iræ is a rather shocking text that is used in the Tridentine Requiem Mass and the Divine Office for the occasions of All Souls Day and for funerals.
Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
iudicandus homo reus:
huic ergo parce, Deus.

(That sorrowful day,
on which will arise from the burning coals
Man accused to be judged:
therefore, O God, do Thou spare him.)

In the typical timid religious fashion of our days, Dies iræ, upsetting as it is, is left untranslated in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Modern Enlightenment culture, from which the New Liturgy springs, is indeed timid; its pinnacle was the Victorian era, which was known for its squeamishness of all things unsettling. Postmodern culture, which arose after the Second Vatican Council, which loves the Grateful Dead and considers pornography good, is not timid, but crass and selfish.

But Moderns and Postmoderns alike have a similar dislike for unpleasantness regarding death. It has been said that everyone in the hospitals know who is dying except for the physicians and the patients; medical progress of the 1960s seemed to claim that no one would die. But who would have guessed that the Universalism of the 19th century would have become the standard philosophy of the afterlife? We no longer speak of Hell, but instead assume everyone goes to a pleasant afterlife, and will go there immediately upon demise. The Moderns see everyone in Heaven, and the Postmoderns too, for they think that we are all God(dess).

Everywhere in history and in all places we find that people pray for the dead. Orthodox and Catholic Christians, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, some Anglicans, and nearly every other religion in world except for post-Reformation Christians and Western secularists pray for the dead. The theologies might be different, but nearly everyone everywhere has always assumed that souls, after death, do not arrive at their final resting place until after a spiritual journey or purification, and that we help them in this. All agree that prayers for the dead are effective.
Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna
in die illa tremenda
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra,
dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.
Tremens factus sum ego et timeo,
dum discussion venerit atque venture ira:
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra.

(Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death
on that awful day
when the heavens and earth shall be shaken
and you shall come to judge the world by fire.
I am seized with fear and trembling
until the trial is at hand and the wrath to come:
when the heavens and earth shall be shaken.)
—From the Requiem Mass

An ancient Catholic custom is visiting cemeteries on All Souls Day and its octave, or the eight days starting with November 2nd. From my visits today, I've noticed that there is plenty of available parking and no crowds, so it should be convenient to follow this custom.

I can't say it any better than the source, so here is an extract from the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines, from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, promulgated in 2001.

The Memorial of the Dead in Popular Piety

256. As with the Liturgy, popular piety pays particular attention to the memory of the dead and carefully raises up to God prayers in suffrage for them.

In matters relating to the "memorial of the dead", great pastoral prudence and tact must always be employed in addressing the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety, both in its doctrinal aspect and in harmonising the liturgical actions and pious exercises.

257. It is always necessary to ensure that popular piety is inspired by the principles of the Christian faith. Thus, they should be made aware of the paschal meaning of the death undergone by those who have received Baptism and who have been incorporated into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Rm 6,3-10); the immortality of the soul (cf Lk 23, 43); the communion of Saints, through which "union with those who are still on their pilgrim journey with the faithful who repose in Christ is not in the least broken, but strengthened by a communion of spiritual goods, as constantly taught by the Church our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective"; the resurrection of the body; the glorious coming of Christ, who will "judge the living and the dead"; the reward given to each according to his deeds; life eternal.

Deeply rooted cultural elements connoting particular anthropological concepts are to be found among the customs and usages connected with the "cult of the dead" among some peoples. These often spring from a desire to prolong family and social links with the departed. Great caution must be used in examining and evaluating these customs. Care should be taken to ensure that they are not contrary to the Gospel. Likewise, care should be taken to ensure that they cannot be interpreted as pagan residues.

258. In matters relating to doctrine, the following are to be avoided:
  • the invocation of the dead in practices involving divination;

  • the interpretation or attribution of imaginary effects to dreams relating to the dead, which often arises from fear;

  • any suggestion of a belief in reincarnation;

  • the danger of denying the immortality of the soul or of detaching death from the resurrection, so as to make the Christian religion seem like a religion of the dead;

  • the application of spacio-temporal categories to the dead.

259. "Hiding death and its signs" is widespread in contemporary society and prone to the difficulties arising from doctrinal and pastoral error.

Doctors, nurses, and relatives frequently believe that they have a duty to hide the fact of imminent death from the sick who, because of increasing hospitalization, almost always die outside of the home.

It has been frequently said that the great cities of the living have no place for the dead: buildings containing tiny flats cannot house a space in which to hold a vigil for the dead; traffic congestion prevents funeral corteges because they block the traffic; cemeteries, which once surrounded the local church and were truly "holy ground" and indicated the link between Christ and the dead, are now located at some distance outside of the towns and cities, since urban planning no longer includes the provision of cemeteries.

Modern society refuses to accept the "visibility of death", and hence tries to conceal its presence. In some places, recourse is even made to conserving the bodies of the dead by chemical means in an effort to prolong the appearance of life.

The Christian, who must be conscious of and familiar with the idea of death, cannot interiorly accept the phenomenon of the "intolerance of the dead", which deprives the dead of all acceptance in the city of the living. Neither can he refuse to acknowledge the signs of death, especially when intolerance and rejection encourage a flight from reality, or a materialist cosmology, devoid of hope and alien to belief in the death and resurrection of Christ.

The Christian is obliged to oppose all forms of "commercialisation of the dead", which exploit the emotions of the faithful in pursuit of unbridled and shameful commercial profit.

260. In accordance with time, place and tradition, popular devotions to the dead take on a multitude of forms:
  • the novena for the dead in preparation for the 2 November, and the octave prolonging it, should be celebrated in accordance with liturgical norms;

  • visits to the cemetery; in some places this is done in a community manner on 2 November, at the end of the parochial mission, when the parish priest takes possession of the parish; visiting the cemetery can also be done privately, when the faithful go to the graves of their own families to maintain them or decorate them with flowers and lamps. Such visits should be seen as deriving from the bonds existing between the living and the dead and not from any form of obligation, non-fulfilment of which involves a superstitious fear;

  • membership of a confraternity or other pious association whose objects include "burial of the dead" in a the light of the Christian vision of death, praying for the dead, and providing support for the relatives of the dead;

  • suffrage for the dead through alms deeds, works of mercy, fasting, applying indulgences, and especially prayers, such as the De profundis, and the formula Requiem aeternam, which often accompanies the recitation of the Angelus, the rosary, and at prayers before and after meals.