Thursday, March 29, 2007

This just in: USPS a bunch of dorks!

Star Wars stamp set announced by post office

This explains the R2-D2 mailboxes you may have seen.

I always knew the USPS was a bunch of dorks. :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Catholic Carnival 112

Posted by Shellie at Profound Gratitude.

Infanticide at home and abroad

I'm not sure what to make of it, but my heart aches reading each of the following articles.

Body of a baby found in the Mississippi River, the third in eight years

Mothers in Germany urged to drop off unwanted babies at hospitals after 23 known cases of infanticide this year

Three of my fellow teachers have given birth to their babies during the past few weeks, and to be reminded contemporarily of such cruelty elsewhere in the world is jarring. But reality often acts as a much needed call to prayer.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


My wife has revamped her business site. Check it out for all your hand-knit diapering accessories!

Friday, March 23, 2007

You know that creaking sound a rope makes just before snapping...

I think I hear it now:
Episcopal bishops rebuff demand from Anglican leaders

Of note:
The plan to put conservative parishes under an international "pastoral council" would replace local governance with "a distant and unaccountable group of prelates" for "the first time since our separation from the papacy in the 16th century," the US bishops said in a written resolution.

Oh, the horror! Isn't that foreign "group of prelates" at least accountable to God. Surely He's up to the task.

Our consciences can err, the Church cannot

Michael J. Bayly, Executive Coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, has posted recently some of his Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity. Near the end, Mr. Bayly proclaims the "good news" that "the loving and transforming presence of God is not limited to the impoverished teachings and rules of the Vatican". The thoughts he shared follow closely his earlier post concerning the primacy of conscience. I excerpt from his earlier entry:

Our moral choices should be the result of an informed or “educated” conscience.

Yet some within the church insist that it is only the “official” church which can properly “educate” and “inform” the Catholic conscience.

Such Catholics are adamant that one knows if one’s conscience is rightly formed if it conforms with what the Magisterium, the official teaching office of the church, says about various moral matters.

Yet if this was really the case, why have a conscience? What’s the point of it when we have the Magisterium?

Also, if we relinquish our personal conscience in favour of the Magisterium , what do we do with statements like the following:

“Above the pope as an expression of the binding claim of church authority, stands one’s own conscience, which has to be obeyed first of all, if need be against the demands of church authority.”

Such a statement explicitly differentiates between one’s “own conscience” and “church authority”. Yet is this statement simply the ramblings of a dissident theologian, a “militant secularist” in a Catholic disguise?

Actually, no, it’s not.

They are, in fact, the words of Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), and he is explaining the authentic Catholic understanding of the primacy of conscience. The pope’s explanation is excepted from a commentary on “Gaudium et Spes” (“The Church in the Modern World”) published in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II (Vorgrimler, Herbert (Ed.), Burns and Oats, 1969, p. 134.)

So, one can, in good conscience, dissent from the church’s official moral teaching. But, of course, one can only do so as a result of an “informed” conscience. Which brings us back to the crucial question: How does one go about properly informing one’s conscience?

Believe it or not, I think we should allow the church to inform our consciences, but I don’t limit “the church” to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. In it’s broadest and, I believe, most catholic sense, the church is the entire people of God; the whole Body of Christ, in other words.

For instance, in forming my conscience on how I am to live as a gay man – a living that includes the expression of my sexuality – I am compelled to be open to the experiences and insights of the entire people of God, not just the teachings of the Magisterium. These experiences and insights are just as important as the doctrines of the church when it comes to informing my conscience. The tragedy is that the Magisterium itself, as the teaching office of the church, should be similarly engaged in such a universal, i.e. catholic, process of discernment.

Notice the quote from Ratzinger. He dropped the exact same text as a footnote of his recent post. Bayly uses the quote to justify his assertion that "one can, in good conscience, dissent from the church's official moral teaching." But is this Ratzinger's intention? Of course not! Let's look at some more context from the Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II where Ratzinger comments on Gaudium et Spes 16:

Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one's own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism. Genuine ecclesiastical obedience is distinguished from any totalitarian claim which cannot accept any ultimate obligation of this kind beyond the reach of its dominating will.


As well as the transcendence of conscience, its non-arbitrary character and objectivity are emphasized. The fathers were obviously anxious ... not to allow an ethics of conscience to to be transformed into the domination of subjectivism, and not to canonize a limitless situation ethics under the guise of conscience. On the contrary, the conciliar text implies that obedience to conscience means an end to subjectivism, a turning aside from blind arbitrariness, and produces conformity with the objective norms of moral action.


As regards the binding force of erroneous conscience, the text employs a rather evasive formula. It mere says that such a conscience does not lose its dignity. We must note here that the thesis emphatically asserted by J.B. Metz in particular, that Aquinas was the first definitely to teach to obligatory force of an erroneous conscience, is historically and objectively the case only to a certain extent and with considerable qualifications. Historically speaking, Aquinas here is following Aristotelian intellectualism, according to which only what is presented to the will by reason can be its object; and the will is always in the wrong if it deviates from reason. It cannot once again control the reason, it has to follow it; it is consequently bad if it contradicts reason, even if reason is in error. In reality, Aquinas's thesis is nullified by the fact that he is convinced that error is culpable. Consequently guilt lies not so much in the will which has to carry out the precept laid upon it by reason, but in reason itself, which must know about God's law. The doctrine of the binding force of an erroneous conscience in the form in which it is propounded nowadays, belongs entirely to the thought of modern times.

So, it is clear that Mr. Bayly has no ally in his dissent with then-Fr. Ratzinger. In general, Ratzinger affirms the necessity of obeying one's conscience taught in Gaudium et Spes 16 but is critical of the ambiguity of the text. In the end he notes how an erroneous conscience obeyed is still often culpable of guilt, since the judgement of reason can be due to one's previous neglect or prior sin. Instead of justifying us in our sin, conscience levels the playing field between man and God, for we all know the requirements of God and we all know when we do wrong:

For God shows no partiality. All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. (Romans 2:11-14)

Although Michael Bayly and others of CPCSM claim to be "Catholic, Liberal, Faithful", what they mean is "I self-identify as Catholic, but I am self-liberated from the rules of the Vatican, and I am faithful to what my own conscience tells me is right." Anybody who happens to think that "Catholic" should mean more than "I say I'm Catholic"; anybody who thinks the Catholic Church clearly teaches certain absolutes; anybody who thinks that the Pope has the authority to bind and loose the people of God, is stuck in "the ghetto of neo-scholastic thinking" which is a "narrow and abstruse way of thinking", resorts to "equating ecclesiastical fidelity with passive toadyism", and responds to reality with "distrust and fear".

I find it a bit ironic that St. Thomas with his "narrow and abstruse" scholasticism was the first one to teach definitely (with qualifications) that one's conscience should be obeyed even if in error, the very principle the Mr. Bayly holds up in justification of his dissent from the Magisterium!

In truth, while a person indeed must obey his conscience when it speaks of doing good or avoiding evil, we must acknowledge that conscience can err (CCC 1790). Christ, speaking through the Magisterium of his Church, cannot err (CCC 888-92). We are to inform our consciences with the truth of God by means of what we know is certain:

In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord's Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church. (CCC 1785, emphasis added)

Edit: Typo "Vorgrimler" changed in original, and reflected here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fred Thompson for president?

"He steered a fake aircraft carrier right into a fake conflict in The Hunt for Red October"

Well, I guess he's also a lawyer and former US Senator from Tennessee.

"Or Kiefer Sutherland. The guy has saved the country, like, six years in a row!"

Monday, March 19, 2007

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto

In my attempt to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I'm doing a bit of work learning to chant.

My general goal for a while has been to develop greater discipline in daily prayer. A guiding principle I adopted has been to practice that kind of prayer that lots of other good and holy people recommend. I began with Fr. Thomas Dubay and his book Prayer Primer (highly recommended). He says to start with vocal prayer, suggesting the Liturgy of the Hours as an excellent way offered by the Church. This structure has helped me immensely over the past few months! It's also a wonderful source of scripture for meditation, the next highest kind of prayer.

The Church teaches - all evidence to the contrary in our parishes - that latin and Gregorian chant are to be given priority in the liturgy at mass. So, on a related note I've been trying to learn to chant and combining this with my practice of praying vespers every night. Here are some gems I've culled from internet slag:

Simple Way Lay Apostolate This site offers the single best resource for learning the LH and simple chant. Discovering Prayer is a free downloadable booklet with quick and easy directions for praying all of the hours, as well as reading neumes (chant notes). Included, or available as a separate download, is a Liturgy of the Hours Help Card that includes the latin for all the ordinary prayers (God come to my assistance, Glory to, Our father, Benedictus, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis, May the Lord bless us, etc.) as well as all eight psalm tones for chanting in english or latin.

Jubilate Deo A booklet of traditional prayers and hymns that were recommended by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in 1974 as a "minimum repertoire of Gregorian chant".

An Idiot's Guide to Square Notes Not as trite as the title suggests. Very useful.

The Church Music Association of America "is an association of Catholic musicians, and those who have a special interest in music and liturgy, active in advancing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other forms of sacred music, including new composition, for liturgical use." MANY articles and chant sheetmusic for download.

St. Cecilia Schola Cantorum A parish schola with a great many pieces of chant and polyphony available for download.

Choral Public Domain Library Searchable database of free public domain compositions for download.

Vatican Radio Lauds, Vespers and Compline prayed daily in latin and available for listening.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Unworthy, yet sanctified in Christ

Vespers ended last night, the 3rd Sunday in Lent, with the prayer,

you have taught us to overcome our sins
by prayer, fasting and works of mercy.
When we are discouraged by our weakness,
give us confidence in your love.

It expresses something that I often feel - frusteration with my own faults and frequent sins, but trust in God for the hope and life he gives us in Christ Jesus. Also, from the prayer of St. Ambrose before mass,

Lord Jesus Christ,
I approach your banquet table
in fear and trembling,
for I am a sinner,
and dare not rely on my own worth,
but only on your goodness and mercy.

What an amazing revelation, that God has chosen to share his life with us sinners! Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man -- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Rom 5:7-8)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Does science drive out religious belief?

Barton Swaim at First Things points out the erroneous assumption made by many athiest scientists - specifically Steven Weinberg - that scientific knowledge and religious faith are inversely proportional (as one increases, the other decreases). I am a fan of Stephen Barr on the topic of science and religion, he being a Catholic physicist who thinks deeply about the implications of what we have discovered through the methods of science. His article Retelling the Story of Science is a good summary of his argument that there is no conflict between religion and science, but rather one between religion and scientific materialism. This is the philisophical view that nothing exists besides matter, and everything in the universe - including the human person - is completely explained by discoverable laws of nature. Many materialists would have you think that this philosophy is required by the discipline of science, but it is not.

So here's my question: Do you think there is a contradiction between what you believe about God and what you believe about science? If so, what? Please let us know what religious perspective you hold.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Songs of victory

Fr. Baer's comments about singing songs of victory in battle reminded me of two things. The first is Psalm 118. A number of years ago I memorized a good portion of it after noticing that it is often quoted in the new testament. Verse 22 is a familiar messianic reference applied to Jesus: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." (cf. Mt 21:42, Acts 4:11)

1: O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!
2: Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
3: Let the house of Aaron say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
4: Let those who fear the LORD say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
5: Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.
6: With the LORD on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?
7: The LORD is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
8: It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
9: It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
10: All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11: They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12: They surrounded me like bees, they blazed like a fire of thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13: I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me.
14: The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
15: Hark, glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: "The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
16: the right hand of the LORD is exalted, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!"

17: I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.

The second is a portion from J.R.R. Tolkien's Return of the King at the end of the chapter entitled The Ride of the Rohirrim. The riders of Rohan, led by King Théoden, have looked in despair at the great siege army besetting Minas Tirith:

The City was now nearer. A smell of burning was in the air and a very shadow of death. The horses were uneasy. But the king sat upon Snowmane, motionless, gazing upon the agony of Minas Tirith, as if stricken suddenly by anguish, or by dread. He seemed to shrink down, cowed by age. Merry himself felt as if a great weight of horror and doubt had settle on him. His heart beat slowly. Time seem poised in uncertainty. They were too late! Too late was worse than never! Perhaps Théoden would quail, bow his old head, turn, slink away to hide in the hills. ...

At that sound [of a great boom from the City] the bent shape of the king sprang suddenly erect. Tall and proud he seemed again; and rising in his stirrups he cried in a loud voice, more clear than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve before:

Arise, arise Riders of Théoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

With that he seized a great horn from Guthláf his bannerbearer, and he blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder. And straightaway all the horns in the host were lifted up in music, and the blowing of the horns of Rohan in that hour was like a storm upon the plain and a thunder in the mountains.

Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane and the horse sprang away. Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it. After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them. Éomer rode there, the white horsetail on his helm floating in his speed, and the front of the first éored roared like a breaker foaming to the shore, but Théoden could not be overtaken. Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Oromë the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young. His golden shield was uncovered, and lo! it shone like an image of the Sun, and the grass flamed into green about the white feet of his steed. For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror took them, and they fled, and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them. And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City.

Singing in victory!

Commented by Fr. Baer:
Among the comments made in the local newspapers and blogs regarding the events of the past two nights, there has been an interesting thread running through them, namely, comments about the singing of traditional chants and hymns.

At the Seminary, I teach the men that singing in the Scriptures is often associated with victory in battle. In particular, the "new song" of the Psalms and, especially, of the Exodus, is no willowy, but a triumphal song following the LORD's victory over the Egyptians and other opponents. Mary's Magnificat is a victory song, acclaiming God's triumph in raising the lowly, including His lowly handmaid, to glory, while casting down the proud and powerful of this world. In heaven the martyrs and saints will sing a new song, "the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb."
Are you in a fight? Cry out to the Lord. Are you victorious? Sing out to the Lord. This is how Catholics do it. And this may be an under-appreciated part of how Catholics are to do evangelization. People close their ears to our words, but they just can't ignore a good song.

Do we want Catholic men to sing? Give them a chance to fight for Christ, give them a chance to celebrate our victory in Christ, and then give them chants and anthems, ancient and new, whose words and melodies and spirit befit an unconquerable band of brothers in Christ.

Do that, and we will have thousands of everyday Catholic men around the Twin Cities, including men who have hated to sing the insipid songs foisted upon them previously, singing with ardor a new song to the Lord. I guarantee that observers and protesters who pay no attention to mean-spirited and tiresome shouts of protest will take notice. That's what a song of victory does. Always has, always will.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Manly men

I was able to get to the U of M last night (Saturday), arriving about 7:30. I went around to the side of Rarig facing away from the street where students most often walk by between classes. I lived in Middlebrook Hall on the West Bank, so I had pictured the protest being held on that side. But nobody was there! I saw theatre-goers inside having drinks, but no one outside. I thought perhaps I was too late, and the group was asked to move or something.

But I walked around to the other side to find a dense wedge of people praying the Rosary and singing, mostly seminarians. I have no idea how to estimate the size - definitely more than 50 and probably less than 100. It appeared identical to the descriptions I had read about Friday night.

I crossed in front and took up a position near the back corner. We finished the last three Glorious Mysteries and then prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Lots of people walked by on their way into the theatre for the 8:00 show, and most just passed by with a glance. Praying out in the cold reminded me of my childless days when I would get up Saturday mornings and go with a few friends to pray outside an abortion provider in Robbinsdale. We were led by Father Dufner, rain or show or shine. It's something that sounds really radical when you talk about it -- "Yeah, I was outside in the snow praying for and hour to stop abortion..." But it actually ends up being much easier to do than expected and eventually becomes a routine. Last night was the same way. I was a bit nervous walking to the theatre, but there was nothing to fear once I was there in prayer.

I'm glad I went. It was clearly the SJV guys' show, as they seemed quite used to praying and singing together. I've decided that learning about the protest got me so excited because it wasn't some cranks standing outside the theatre with signs and yelling, "GO TO HELL LIBERAL ARTIST SCUM!" It was our seminarians (led by their rector Fr. Baer) standing up to say - This is not right. Catholics should not put up with this kind of insult and blasphemy. We will pray in reparation, trusting to God and His perfect justice. I'm so grateful that these men are answering God's call to serve His Church.

Oh, as for these "manly men". Their deep voices rang out with confidence in prayer and song (much better than my students' singing at school). After Fr. Baer's blessing, the SJV men shouted their motto: "Men in Christ! Men of the Church! Men for others! Saint John Vianney - Pray for us! Holy Mary Mother of God - Pray for us!" There was more, but I forget. It was like a team getting psyched for a game. Way to go, guys! Fr. Corapi doesn't call the Rosary a powerful weapon for nothing!

*Shout out to Cathy_of_Alex whom (who?) I greeted after the praying. She was there the whole time and nearly took over when the seminarians were a few minutes slow showing up. Good to see you!

Other posts about the evening at Veritatis Spendor (pics) and Adoro te Devote.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Show up and be counted!

Ray from MN also attended last night's play and records the sight of the "alien" SJV seminarians praying at the U of MN here.

SJV men will be there again tonight beginning at 7:15 and lasting about an hour! Click the above link for details. I'll be there in support of our future priests and in protest of "The Pope and His Witch."

Faithful witness in the face of insult

The insulting play "The Pope and the Witch" opened last night at the U of M to a small crowd inside the theatre (about 250/460 seats filled) but a surprisingly large crowd outside the theatre. Around 70 to 80 people, many of them seminarians from Saint John Vianney, stood outside praying the rosary and singing hymns in protest of a play that reportedly mocks the Pope specifically and the Catholic faith generally. Praise God for their public witness! I can't tell you how encouraging it is to me to hear that so many men discerning priesthood have the courage to stand up without embarrassment and be counted in support of Our Lord and His Church.

The Star Tribune reports on the play here. Cathy_of_Alex, author of The Recovering Dissident Catholic saw the play last night and gives her thoughts here and here.

I left a voicemail at Fr. Baer's office asking him to pass on a "thank you" to the men who prayed outside the play for their strong public witness for our Lord and his Church. It'd be great if others could do the same, or email:

Fr. William Baer, Rector-President - 651-962-6825

Friday, March 02, 2007

The barbarian hordes

There is a good article titled Leo the Great and Benedict the XVI over at Catholic Exchange. While Leo the Great faced down the barbarian army of Attila the Hun as it made its way towards Rome in 452, Pope Benedict XVI is poised to challenge the "seductive ideologies and cultural pathologies" that seek to undermine the Church's moral authority, the dignity of the human person, and thus modern civilization.

(I'm keen on Leo the Great. My son's name is Leo. :)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

What is in the womb?

You may have heard about baby Amellia. She was born at only 21 (nearly 22) weeks of gestation, the earliest known preemie to live. Now there's Millie McDonagh born in Enlgand only one day later than Amellia. Apparently the UK prohibits abortion after 24 weeks, the age of "viability" after which a baby born premature has a non-negligible chance to survive. Millie has inspired a new bill in parliament lowering the restriction to 22 weeks, since now there's some hope that a baby that young may survive a premature birth.

The British law has at least some reason to it: A "fetus" is worth protecting if he or she can survive outside of the mother's womb. Not a very meaningful line to draw, but I think it gives the appearance of reason compared to the U.S.: baby inside mother = nothing, baby outside mother = person.

Let's set aside any policy decisions for a moment. What is in a mother's womb? If one believes that there is a human being worthy of protection in a mother's womb as long as that baby can survive on its own, then you are going to run into the current problem of better technology enabling earlier premature delivery survival. Does it make sense that a person's existence and thus protection depends upon our current level of medical knowledge?

If Amellia was born a miracle baby at 21 weeks, what was the nameless baby who was aborted today at 21 weeks? Just a choice? Just a terminated pregnancy?