Month: June 2004

If Flannery O’Connor had a blog . . .

. . . it might look something like this. A a blog of quotes about and by the great Catholic author Flannery O’Connor, by the author of the blog with the really long Latin name. 😉

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Impending Death of a Catholic College

Cruxnews.com reports:

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Only a week after the Board of Trustees of Ave Maria College reaffirmed its commitment to continue the Michigan college through 2007, and to explore options to keep the school functioning after that, Thomas Monaghan announced that he wants the school shut down in 2007. . . .  The problem, which has created the crisis, was that one college had now become two institutions. The so-called transition was in reality the start-up of a new university in Florida at the expense of an already-existing college in Michigan with ongoing interests.

Sad news for all involved, particularly the students and their parents. Pray for all involved. James Akin has a roundup of related news on his blog.

De-Coding Da Vinci

I was browsing the shelves of our local Barnes & Noble today and was pleased to see Carl Olson & Sandra Meisel’s The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code given prominent display in the religion section. I had the opportunity to read the first two chapters and it looks to be very, good — in the words of Cardinal Francis George, “the definitive debunking.”

However, for those who don’t have the time to plow through all 375 pages of The Da Vinci Hoax, I heartily recommend Mrs. Welborn’s De-Coding Da Vinci, which in itself is an excellent rebuttal. From what I’ve heard, the novel itself was rather bad and despite Dan Brown’s claims to be factual, is anything but. Consequently, it doesn’t take Ms. Welborn more than a hundred or so pages to engage in a sufficient point by point refutation of his chief allegations. A quick but very substantial read.

One more thing — I particularly appreciated the study questions at the end of each chapter, and the recommendations for further reading, making this an ideal text for use by any youth minister or teacher wishing to discuss the claims of the novel with his class.

The Passion over Fahrenheit 911

Liberals are fawning over Michael Moore’s “mockumentary” Fahrenheit 911 with a religious furvor akin to Catholic zeal for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ. Does anybody else find the sentiments expressed in this review by Stewart Klawans for The Nation oddly familar to those expressed by Christians exiting the theater after seeing Gibson’s dramatization?:

You don’t much monitor your own reactions. But then, as you leave the movie house, you might notice that the sidewalk chatter sounds oddly muffled, the traffic looks a little blurred, as you begin to realize that your attention has not come outside with you; it’s still in the dark, struggling with the feelings that Fahrenheit 9/11 called up and didn’t resolve. Are you outraged, heartbroken, vengeful, morose, gloating, thoughtful, electrified? Moore has elicited all of these emotions and then had the nerve–the filmmaker’s nerve–to leave you to sort them out. . . . I think there are two bundles of messages in Fahrenheit 9/11, one political and one emotional–and while the first is about as ambiguous as a call to take up pitchforks and torches and storm the castle, the second is too complex to unsettle those in power. It works to unsettle you. It’s what makes Fahrenheit 9/11 a real movie.

In lieu of the Stations of the Cross, watching Michael Moore reveal that the Bush administration engineered the war in Iraq with the sole motive of making profits off Arab oil and Halliburton labor contracts is something of a religious epiphany. 😉
* * *

The reason I don’t like Michael Moore is NOT because he’s anti-Republican — it’s entirely possible to offer criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of the war in a reasonable and civilized manner. The problem with Michael Moore is that he so effectively contributes to the dumbing down of the Left by his willing indulgence in radical conspiracy-theorizing and vulger anti-Americanism, as recently exposed by David Brooks (“All Hail Moore” New York Times June 26, 2004).

Here’s Moore on how he really feels about Americans:

“They are possibly the dumbest people on the planet . . . in thrall to conniving, thieving smug [pieces of the human anatomy] . . . We Americans suffer from an enforced ignorance. We don’t know about anything that’s happening outside our country. Our stupidity is embarrassing. . . .

“That’s why we’re smiling all the time. You can see us coming down the street. You know, `Hey! Hi! How’s it going?’ We’ve got that big [expletive] grin on our face all the time because our brains aren’t loaded down.”

Here’s Moore on the complexities of the U.S. – Iraqi conflict (in an interview with the Japanese press):

“The motivation for war is simple. The U.S. government started the war with Iraq in order to make it easy for U.S. corporations to do business in other countries. They intend to use cheap labor in those countries, which will make Americans rich.”

And here’s Moore — in his message posted on his website, April 14, 2004 — on the Islamic fundamentalists who are ambushing our troops and beheading hostages:

“The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not `insurgents’ or `terrorists’ or `The Enemy.’ They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win.”

This coming from a self-proclaimed “filthy-rich multi-millionare” who portrays himself on screen as a scruffy blue-collar “man of the people” while living in a posh apartment in Manhattan and demanding up to $38,000 in “speaking fees” for a single engagement at Kansas University.

In related news, Ralph Nader accused Moore of selling out his friends for the Democratic Party Establishment in an open letter to his website.

Related Links:

The Religious Challenge of "Exporting Democracy"

Those who missed the Spring 2004 Issue of the Public Interest — devoted to “Religion in America” — should take a look at the few articles available online (or order the back issue itself). In the “The Unraveling of Christianity in America”, Clifford Orwin shares his trenchant analysis of mainline (“evangelical”) Christianity and it’s struggle against the “Bobo” — Bourgeois Bohemian — faith of the postmodern liberal upper class (coined by David Brooks’ amusing Bobos in Paradise).

Mr. Orwin concludes his essay by observing the quandary the Bush administration has placed itself in by its attempt to “export democracy” to far off shores, with the hope that it might take root in other than Judeo-Christian soil:

By its deeds, not merely its words, [The Bush Administration] has exceeded all previous ones in rejecting the dependence of democracy on Christianity. It has adopted the premise that just as Confucianism, historically anything but liberal or democratic, has posed no insuperable obstacle to the democratization of East Asia, so Islam will pose none to that of the Middle East.

This position is so far from that of the Christian Right as to place the administration squarely on the wrong side of the cultural divide. The conservative Christian view is that America has become and remained free only insofar as it has remained Christian, that the Christian backdrop to republicanism is a matter not of historical chance but of vital necessity. . . .

I’m not suggesting that the Christian Right is likely to abandon Bush. On many domestic issues—not least that of “faith-based initiatives”—it has every incentive to continue to collaborate with him. Nor is it likely to overlook that, of all Republican presidents since McKinley, Bush appears to be the most concerned with living a Christian life. All the more ironic, then, that in the most important policy and riskiest gamble of his presidency, Bush has embraced willy-nilly the view that liberal democracy is one thing, Protestant Christianity (or Christianity of any sort, or even Judeo-Christianity) entirely another. He has chosen to present America to the world not as the Christian nation for which his religious supporters take it, but as the universal sponsor of liberal democracy, which as such is impartial in principle as between Christianity and Islam.

Thus must Bush present America not just to the world but to itself. . . . However trying the struggle with Islamism may prove, whatever sacrifices it may demand, he cannot revive Lincoln’s appeal to Christianity, no matter how nondenominational that appeal would be. His religious rhetoric must be “inclusive,” anodyne, and sterile. His administration must become America’s first genuinely Methodist Taoist Native American Quaker Russian Orthodox Buddhist Jewish (and Muslim) one. And so the challenge of Islamic terror will collaborate with other forces to drive official America to ever greater lengths of secularism or syncretism.

For an extensive review of this issue of The Public Interest, see Fr. Neuhaus’ column in the June issue of First Things.

Antoni Gaudí’s Masterpiece

In this week’s “Word from Rome”, John Allen Jr. writes of the Sagrada Familia, a monster cathedral “whose construction began in the late 19th century and is not expected to be complete for perhaps another 50 years.”

The Sagrada Familia is the brainchild of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852-1926), whose cause for beatification is currently underway. In 1915, the papal nuncio in Spain called Gaudí “the Dante of architecture.”

Every detail has theological significance, so that the Sagrada Familia is a sort of Summa Theologica in stone. Its effect can be overwhelming. A Japanese sculptor named Etsuro Sotoo, for example, converted to Catholicism from Shintoism after spending time in Barcelona studying Gaudí’s work. A Japanese architect, Kenji Imai, similarly converted to Catholicism after spending time at the Sagrada Familia.

If the beatification cause succeeds, Gaudí would be one of the few laymen raised to the altar for something other than martyrdom. Local supporters see him as on a par with Robert Schumann as a lay Catholic who has helped shape modern Europe, in Gaudí’s case through architecture rather than politics.

Imagine that — religious architecture so outstanding it could inspire spiritual conversion to Catholicism in those who beheld it.

Call me jaded, but I have a difficult time imagining this having a similar effect. 😉

Related Links:

  • Gaudi’s Glory Day. Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia is “virtually” completed, by Michael S. Rose. Apr. 05, 2003.

Europe Formally Denies God and Christianity, angering the Holy Father

John Allen Jr. reports on Europe’s religion phobia in this week’s “Word from Rome”:

Though future generations may refer to John Paul II as “The Great,” and they may even declare him a saint, no one will call him angelic.

This is a pope who has worn his emotions on his sleeve, from his joy when surrounded by youth, to his anger in Nicaragua in 1983 (shouting “silence!” at a crowd of Sandinista agitators), to disappointment while visiting Poland after adoption of a liberalized abortion law.

Papal passions were again on display June 20 when he delivered his Sunday Angelus address, his first public comment since the European Union adopted its new constitution. It acknowledges the “cultural, religious and humanist inheritance” of Europe, but omits the specific reference to the continent’s Christian heritage that had long been requested by John Paul. It also makes no mention of God.

The result embittered the pope, and it showed.

“I want to thank Poland for faithfully defending in European institutions the Christian roots of our continent, from which have grown our culture and the civil progress of our time,” he said in his native Polish.

Poland was among the handful of European nations — Italy, Portugal, Malta, and the Czech Republic — that persevered until the end in requesting a reference to Christianity, but in the end they were blocked by more powerful nations, especially France. (Former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing headed the drafting commission).

Thus the papal barb: “One does not cut off the roots from which one is born.”

Other Vatican sources reflected the pope’s displeasure.

On Friday, spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls charged that governments that had blocked the reference to Christianity “failed to understand the historical evidence and the Christian identity of the peoples of Europe.” On Saturday, L’Osservatore Romano said that Europe “seems to want to deprive itself of the solid foundation of its historical memory.

Related Links: