Sunday, April 29, 2012

America Hits A New Low

The ridiculous carrying-on at this year’s Washington DC Correspondents Dinner reminds me of Thomas Couter’s famous painting “The Romans of the Decadence.” Nothing symbolized this more than the presence of the irksome Kim Kardashian at the event. She has become a symbol of everything that is cheap and ugly in our society. Yet, like the whore of Babylon she is held up as an object of worship. During his monologue, Obama made fun of the Secret Service scandal, his apparent socialism, and Mitt Romney’s lack of hipness. Sad day for America. But the populous has rarely risen up to overthrow corrupt rulers. Like in Rome, most civilizations usually just fall on their own weight from increasing weakness and the prominence of stagnating mediocrity.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Great American Debate: Baseball vs. Football, Mythos vs. Merchandising

As we roll into another summer, I am reminded of a debate that has been going on in my head for awhile: baseball vs. football. I have never been a particular fan of either sport, but I do appreciate the aesthetic images that surround each. Of course, baseball has a much longer history in the US. A great heterodoxy of fabled men and heroic achievements have grown around the sport. Football has not yet, and I believe never will, produce mythological figures such as Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle. These were men of epic proportions. Although baseball is a team sport, it is still a democratic game. The individual player will always shine. Football is guarded and totalitarian. Except for the quarterback and the occasional receiver, the bulk of the players, the lineman, never reach beyond the group mentality. They are similar to the overly stratified knights of the High Middle Ages: completely ensconced and weighted down with heavy protective plating. Museums are filled with these shining relics, but the person who once occupied the armor is long dead and forgotten. They never emerged from the iron tomb of anonymity. Baseball players are pre-medieval, their roots lie in the classic worlds of antiquity. Like the ancient warriors of Greece and Rome, they wield a solitary weapon: the bat now replaces the sword. Their bodies are not shielded, therefore more open to injury. The baseball season is long, favoring strength and stamina for the prolonged fight, while football prefers the quick flash in the pan. Football is boast; hence the embarrassing touchdown dances. The increasingly loathsome and annoying build-up to the Superbowl, the commercials, and half-time shows mirror the old propaganda fests put on by the fallen Eastern-bloc countries. Baseball often eschews the spectacle, its trudging, diligent, and methodical. Unfortunately, both sports have been subject to great amounts of greed, corruption, and self-serving myopia. But football has sunk lower. It feels corporate, bloated, and state-driven. Baseball will always be more American. Mom, baseball, and apple pie.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Why Obama Attracts Weak Men

This blog is one that I have had churning in my brain for awhile. But how do I make my case delicately? There is no way, but to state the fact: the Obama cabinet is made up of white male wimps. I am thinking primarily of the embarrassingly ephebic: Timothy Geithner (Secretary of the Treasury,) Shaun Donovan (US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development,) and Jay Carney (Press Secretary.) These guys epitomize the WASP stereotype: privileged upper middle-class upbringing, Ivy League educated, ambitiously upwardly mobile. Their personalities are haughty, often condescending to the point of extreme pretentiousness. They are all complete ideologues. Their world political philosophy has hardened into a type of liberal-secular fascism. But what makes them all the more disturbing is that their image of social egalitarianism is solidified into a single personified image: Barack Obama. He is their pagan idol of worship. For the most part, these men conform to the modern-progressive conception of masculinity, namely the metro-sexual: the best example of this type being the completely annoying Ryan Seacrest. Men of this character are restlessly uncomfortable and unsure in their own sense of masculinity. For this reason, they seek out and cling to men who are powerful in their sphere of interest, in this case: politics and economics. The Republican Party is not immune to such men, but they are a rarity. Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan are men of a definitive masculine persona. They are sure within themselves. Such men we desperately needed in national leadership positions; then we can rid ourselves of these self-serving courtiers

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Bishops Strike Again

The USCCB just released a powerful document, spearheaded by the supremely awesome and fearless Archbishop William Lori, concerning the HHS mandate. As they have done from the very beginning, the Bishops framed their statements in terms of religious liberty not on Catholic dogma or moral teachings. Some have fallen into Obama’s trap and argued against the mandate on sectarian terms: recreating the debate into Catholic conservatism versus secular-feminist progressivism. One of the most interesting sections of the document stressed the need for inter-faith unity:
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued a statement about the administration's contraception and sterilization mandate that captured exactly the danger that we face:
Most troubling, is the Administration's underlying rationale for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its "religious" character and liberties. Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths. The Administration's ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization's religious principles. This is deeply disappointing.
This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.
I especially took note of the inclusion of Mormons who, though we differ greatly on many religious ideas, can be our able partners in the war against those who would take away our freedom to express our Faith. And perhaps through this cooperation we all can learn from one another and one day step closer to a time when their will once again be one Church.

Read the entire document here:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nuns Gone Wild, Part II: They Get Ugly

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR,) which represents around 80 percent of the 45,000 nuns in the United States, reports the Vatican, takes part in “corporate dissent.” Now a representative said it was “painfully obvious” the Vatican leadership was “not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue.” A not-so-veiled slam at our Holy Father who I constantly here liberals describe as hopelessly backwards. It’s also tragic that this women’s words sting of hate. For she is haplessly locked in a liberation mind-set that sees men as oppressors. And then she uses the old magic word: dialogue. When I was a teenager sitting in Candlestick Park waiting for JPII to arrive, his meeting with local religious was beamed onto a huge screen in the stadium. At the time, I did not know nor care anything about the inner politics of the Church, but I was somehow impressed with the Holy Father when a impolite nun badgered him about a so-called dialogue concerning the ordination of women. JPII simply responded that: “the Church is not a democracy.” He then gracefully moved on. This stream also reminds me of a conversation I had back in the early-00s with an unpleasant feminist religious sister: she said that once JPII died, the next Pope would allow women’s ordination. How their chins must have dropped when they saw Cardinal Ratzinger walk out on to the balcony.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Another of the Holy Father's Good Men

The Most Reverend Francis A. Chullikatt addressed the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC this week and stole the show. Here are some excerpts from his speech. As Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Chullikatt first stated that religious freedom “lies close to my heart and lies much in the mind of the Holy Father.” Chullikatt declared it an “essential right for any person to seek permanent truths.” “A freedom that becomes opposed to God is self-defeating,” he added. Chullikatt also worried about the Christian conscience: “The church cannot allow for immorality to be forced on its people,” he maintained, “The freedom of conscience is written into the very law of God.” “Religious liberty is more than just freedom of worship,” he urged, “it is the freedom to be a good citizen informed by the truth of God as it relates to the human person.” He then went on to confront church persecution: “Christians are the religious group that suffers most intolerance and persecution for their faith.” He went on to say: “marginalization is the ground from which violence and religious persecution are born.” “The existence of concentration camps speak to the absence of God…The denial of God corrupts man…and leads him to violence.” “Stand up for those brothers and sisters in distant nations,” Chullikat said, “In fighting for their rights, we are fighting for our own rights.” In closing, while quoting Pope John Paul II, he encouraged the audience to support the Council of Bishops and to prevent a “new totalitarianism of a democracy without values.”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nuns Gone Wild

The Vatican announced Wednesday a full-scale overhaul of the largest umbrella group for nuns in the United States, since the group takes positions that undermine Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” A spokesperson for the group accused the Vatican of attempting to take-out retribution on the sisters for their support of Obama's healthcare mandate: “I can only infer that there was strong feeling about the health care position that we had taken. Our position on health care was application of the one faith to a political document that we read differently than the bishops.” Reminds me of the apocalyptic works of Michael D. O'Brien and the novel “The Stand” by Stephen King: the population is dividing and settling into their perspective camps (good and evil.) There is also a wonderful scene in the Spanish-made miniseries about the life of St. Teresa of Avila: when Teresa arrives at a lax convent to create order as the new superior, the nuns riot in an attempt to keep her from entering and taking over. It has come to this: it is no longer a question of just republican versus democrat or conservative versus liberal, but do you stand with righteousness and the Lord or with deceit and the devil?

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Thoughts on Thomas Kinkade

I wanted to share a few thoughts on Thomas Kinkade: I was studying Art History at his alma-mater, UC Berkeley, when he first rose to fame. Although I thought some of his subject matter overly-sentimental and much of his marketing too aggressive, I continually defended Kinkade's painterly technique which I found to be absolutely flawless. At that time, I also stood up for the much maligned fantasy artist Boris Vallejo and advertising illustrator JC Leyendecker who were mostly considered either hacks or merely draftsman. But unlike most modern abstract artists, they exhibited an incredible mastery over the painted media. Although, I always staid away from the study of 20th Century Art, I did get into some arguments about artistic training and the contemporary thought that such things had been relegated to the ash-bin of the past. Everything revolved around the self-expression of the artist. Without the point-of-view of the artist, which usually revolved around some social-political idea, there was no art. My point: one can still love the Sistine ceiling without ever even knowing the name Michelangelo. That is the sign of great enduring art. The work of Kinkade, I think, will not be nearly as enduring. But he is a reminder that art is not merely in the eye of the beholder. Great art will always be part genius and part craft: something that is indefinable and inherent and something that can be learned through hard work and determination. Because I say it is art – does not make it so.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Holy Father Warns the World

Here is part of the Easter Vigil homily delivered by Pope Benedict on Holy Saturday. But first, in my opinion, the Holy Father has been in incredibly rare form this week. He always seems undaunted, but after his strenuous trip to Mexico and Cuba, I was surprised to see him appearing refreshed and powerful throughout the liturgical celebrations leading up to Easter. It is almost as if, when he takes on every successive new task, completes it, and moves on to the next, he is checking off the to-do list in his mind. Never resting on the laurels of his age, I think he always has a full agenda. With this in mind, the Pope’s Easter messages have been loaded with prophetic warnings. At times, he almost sounds apocalyptic. And this message is no different:
“The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other “lights”, that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.”
Now, he is right on target once again as he exposing the faulty moral ideas that have infested the ordinary man: the inability to distinguish good from bad. This is a very basic quality that is shockingly absent from our contemporary society. Reminds me of a “Dick and Jane” primer lesson. The Pope has had to go back to basics. And this is where I see a major difference between himself and Pope John Paul. Both are certainly intellectuals, but John Paul always felt more at home in the heady atmosphere of university circles arguing with students the finer points of political philosophies that became so central to everyday life in the Communist block, especially Poland. Benedict has not dumbed-himself-down, but reaches out in a more common language to the very heart of an uncatechized laity. I see this as a Catholic shopkeeper, where Benedict’s books are quickly bought up and greatly anticipated, in contrast, when he was alive, the works of John Paul appealed only to a small circle that could scale his mounting walls of academic philology. For someone who is often misguidedly labeled as stodgy, Benedict exhibits a remarkable grasp of everything current and contemporary. He is both clearly grounded in the world’s everyday problems, but also mystically clairvoyant.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Holy Father and Obedience

During the Holy Thursday Mass, the Holy Father delivered one of his richest and most jam-packed homilies of his episcopate. He began by reflecting on the priesthood: always drawing primarily from Holy Scripture; and then he did something remarkable: with his laser-like aim that always seems to drill through the periphery and focus straight on the target, he directly addressed a dissident group of priests, but with his well-refined humility he tried to guide them back into the fold. He then discussed how true change takes places in the Church:
“Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.”
Here, the Holy Father is praising those truly Catholic institutions, orders, lay apostolates, etc., without naming names, who have brought new life into the body of the Church. Those religious who have blatantly strayed from the teachings of the magisterium are now belching out their last gasps of defiance as their nearly empty seminaries and convents creak from disrepair. The Pope has seen that era come and go and he knows where the future of the Church lies. And he infinitely comprehends what consists of the new radicalism. Immediately after the council, it was the hype-thing to do your own thing. That attitude led to mass exile and widespread apathy. Benedict sees that true-counterculturalism is hidden within the gift of obedience.

Pope Benedict on Prayerful Posture

Excerpt from: Mass of the Lord's Supper 

Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI

Basilica of St John Lateran
Holy Thursday, 5 April 2012

"Before reflecting on the content of Jesus’ petition, we must still consider what the evangelists tell us about Jesus’ posture during his prayer. Matthew and Mark tell us that he “threw himself on the ground” (Mt 26:39; cf. Mk 14:35), thus assuming a posture of complete submission, as is preserved in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday. Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus prayed on his knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees: Stephen during his stoning, Peter at the raising of someone who had died, Paul on his way to martyrdom. In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge his divinity; by this posture we also express our confidence that he will prevail."