Month: February 2005

On the suffering of the Holy Father

  • Suffering in Christ – responding to a Protestant (Calvinist) blogger upset with the Catholic “gospel of suffering and defeat”, Fr. Jim Tucker (Dappled Things) gives a remarkable presentation on this topic.
  • Musing from National Review‘s “The Corner”, Michael Novak on “the most important work of the Pope’s life”:

    A Pope is not actually like the Commandant of the Marine Corps, there is really nothing he has to do except be. The church normally runs itself, its departments hum on. Only a few decisions await him, really. The church could go months without appointing new replacements for bishops. What a Pope does is be another Christ. What does Christ have to do, except be? And the comparative advantage of Christianity is that it roots itself in suffering, the suffering of age that each of us will undergo, of cancers and disabilitities and mental illness in the family, the inescapables of every life. Secular humanism ignores these. Professor Rawls thinks Christian emphasis on suffering is life-denying. Not so. I think that’s why so many people are touched by JPII. They know all about suffering, but nobody ever says how ennobling and transformative it can be. That it’s quite all right to be ill and suffering. That it’s a great and valuable gift. That it means a lot. That it’s at the heart of things. In a way, the Pope is teaching more powerfully about Christianity and its comparative advantage than he ever has. The most important work of his life.

    (Via Catholics for Bush).

  • And from the Holy Father himself:Salvifici Doloris: “On the Christian meaning of human suffering.” Given at Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11 February 1984, in the sixth year of his Pontificate.
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Pray for Terri Schiavo, about whom Cardinal Martino spoke:

In statements on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: “If Mr. Schiavo succeeds legally in causing the death of his wife, this not only would be tragic in itself, but would be a grave step toward the legal approval of euthanasia in the United States.”

He added: “I would like to remind everyone in this connection, about all that the Holy Father has said in past days to the Pontifical Academy for Life, confirming that the quality of life is not interpreted as economic success, beauty and physical pleasure, but consists in the supreme dignity of the creature made in the image and likeness of God.

“No one can be the arbiter of life except God himself.”

Pray for the Holy Father as well, who returned to the hospital for emergency surgery (Pope on Respirator After Airway Surgery, Associated Press).

J. Budziszewski – Another Refugee from Anglicanism

During the 1990s, J. Budziszewski rose to prominence as one of the leading intellectual lights among Evangelical Christians in America. A political theorist with a special interest in the natural-law tradition, he was highly sought as a speaker at conferences organized by groups such as the InterVarsity Fellowship and Campus Crusade for Christ. A principal theme of his many talks to American campus groups is captured in the title of his 1999 book, How to Stay Christian in College.

For some Evangelical Protestants, then, it came as a jolt when, on Easter Sunday 2004, Budziszewski was received into the Catholic Church. After maintaining a public silence about his conversion for several months, Budziszewski agreed to tell the story to [Catholic World Report].

J. Budziszewski teaches in the departments of government and philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. His most recently books are What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide (Spence, 2004) and The Revenge of Conscience: Politics and the Fall of Man (Spence, 2004).

“Objections, Obstacles, Acceptance: An interview with J. Budziszewski”, courtesy of Ignatius Insight.

(Via The Seventh Age): Zenit News Service has a two-part interview with Budziszewski (“Natural Law in Our Lives, in Our Courts”)

J. Budziszewski Knows That You Know What You Know, Even though you may not know it yourself. interview with Dick Staub. Christianity Today June 23, 2003.

Via Pontifications, who inquires:

I have googled him and cannot find a first name for him anywhere. He is always simply listed as “J. Budziszewski.” Is he hiding something? Is his name, like the Tetragramaton, unpronounceable? Or is his first name simply “Jay” and he is being economical?

On rockers who find God (and the devil’s music)

Now for a light-hearted post . . . Jeff Miller (Curt Jester) takes note of the apparent conversion of guitarist Brian “Head” Welch from the popular band, Korn (See: “Korn Guitarist Finds God”, by Michelle Malkin. Feb. 23, 2005).

Those immersed in the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” lifestyle tread familiar and all-too-predictable paths. While some are content to wallow in the mire of a prolonged adolescence (or reviving sagging libidos with reunion tours ), a few miraculously rise above and turn over a new leaf. Repeated viewings of 80’s “Hair Metal” bands on VH1’s “Behind the Music” confirms this development is provoked by either “hitting rock bottom” psychologically, emotionally and spiritually, or awakening to new social responsibilities (marriage and parenthood), culminating in the realization that — contra William Blake — wisdom cannot be found in the relentless pursuit of hedonism.

Some discover meaning in the works of mercy, a recent example being David Lee Roth’s apprenticeship as a New York City paramedic. Others “find God”, “find Jesus” — or, at least, some approximation of the ethical or religious life. Brian Welch joins Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, former lead guitarist for Anthrax Daniel Spitz, and other prodigal sons disillusioned by a career of moral decay.

* * *

Jeff muses:

I use to listen to Korn prior to my conversion. They even appeard on a recent episode of Monk. Their lyrics are laced with profanity and I stopped making excuses to continue to listen to them. I even use to play some of their songs on my guitar. It does make me wonder how many head-banging and Gregorian Chant loving traditionalist like me are out there?

Nice to see another head banger among the ranks of St. Blog’s parish. =) I listened to a lot of Korn in the early 90’s. Enjoyed the first album, but found the rest pretty repetitive, like a lot of rock these days. Very few bands rise to the stature of Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd (well, perhaps The Verve). Like Jeff, I also favored the Seattle sound, particulary SoundGarden. My musical tastes pretty much span every genre (these days I’m a big fan of Elvis and Hank Williams. Never thought I’d admit to liking country music!).

I can also relate to the need to distance myself from earlier musical tastes — not so much the form of the music, but the lyrics. As somebody noted on Jeff’s blog:

“One of the more painful parts of the conversion process was realizing that most of my music collection, much as I loved it, was either satanic, sexually disordered or nihilistic and not good for me.”

For a convert in the latter part of the twentieth century, growing as a Christian usually entails a careful pruning of one’s CD collection (Napalm Death’s Fear, Emptiness, Despair doesn’t exactly jive with Paul’s admonition in Philipians 4:8: “For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline: think on these things”).

* * *

But one cannot possibly blog on rock music and Christianity without giving mention to the criticism expressed by Cardinal Ratzinger himself. In p. 148 of Spirit of the Liturgy, Ratzinger offers a brief summary of the state of music today:

Modern so-called “classical ” music has maneuvered itself, wish some exceptions, into an elitist ghetto, which only specialists may enter — and even they do so with what may sometimes be mixed feelings. The music of the masses has broken loose from this and treads a very different path. One the one hand, there is pop music, which is certainly no longer supported by the people in the ancient sense (populus). It is aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal. “Rock”, on the other hand, is the expression of the elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a sometimes cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of the crowd and by the emotional shock of rythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstacy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe. The music of the Holy Spirit’s sober inebriation seems to have little chance when self has become a prison, the mind is a shackle, and breaking out from both appears as a true promise of redemption that can be tasted at least for a few moments.

Given his emphasis on the dionysian aspects of rock music, I think the Cardinal would have appreciated Allen Bloom’s critique of rock in the excellent Closing of the American Mind (or vice versa, were Bloom alive today). Even Catholics who enjoy rock and roll would be hard pressed to dispute the truth of the Cardinal’s account of a concert. Perhaps this is may explain why, as much as I enjoy the music of some bands, I’m less and less inclined to attend live performances — that, or perhaps I’m just too old to mosh.

I do not think that rock has any place in religious liturgy, and strongly detest any attempts to ‘modernize’ or ‘acculturate’ Catholic worship in such a manner. Nevertheless, I consider myself fortunate to have a father who tolerated his sons’ interest in Metallica and Skinny Puppy (which he regarded with mild amusement) while pressing us to pay attention to the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach in home-school. It wasn’t until after we grew up that I came to appreciate those obligatory weekly sessions in “classical music appreciation.”

So, parting question for the readers: Is there something intrinsically wrong — as Ratzinger seems to suggest — in the form of rock itself, and not just the lyrical content? Is rock capable of being “morally rehabilitated” once purged of morally objectionable lyrical content, or is there something intrisically wrong with the form of rock itself (as religious critics like Cardinal Ratzinger, and secular critics like Alan Bloom, might suggest)? And does the validity of the Cardinal’s critique extend to other genres as well (hip-hop, techno, industrial, et al.)?

I know there are some rock n’ roll fans out there in St. Blog’s parish. Perhaps Fr. Bryce Sibley (Radiohead fan) will be tempted to weigh in.

  • Why Rock Music is Boring James McCoy. Los Angeles Mission Nov. 1999.
  • The moral power of music, by Fr. Basil Nortz. Homiletic & Pastoral Review April 2002.
  • The Role of Rock: Beauty and truth in the not so fine arts, by Mark Fischer. The University Concourse Feb. 27, 1996 — see the article and the extended list of links for a discussion of this topic by students at Ave Maria and Franciscan University.
  • Cardinal Ratzinger on Liturgical Music, by Michael J. Miller. Homiletic & Pastoral Review (July 2000).
  • Musicians in Catholic Worship III: Bells and Whistles, Guitars and Tambourines. Lucy Caroll asks “Catholic parishes today are homes to rock bands and back-up groups that sound no different from those at the local bar or supper club. While they may be entertaining, are they truly suitable for the celebration of the Eucharist?”
  • Background on Korn Guitarist’s conversion from On Track magazine :

    “I have a 6-year-old daughter, and I want her to be able to look me in the eye. I’m a single dad, that’s what it comes down to . . .”

    Regarding how his bandmates reacted to the news that he was leaving the group, Welch said, “I think it made the guys mad. It confused them. I left at the worst possible time. We got off Sony, and all the money was there, we were going to own all of our songs, but I had to prove to myself that money wasn’t my God,” he said. “I talked to Jonathan [Davis] and he said, ‘I don’t get it, man, you’re all happy and we’re sitting here grieving because our band is breaking up. And I wanted to tell him, ‘Well, for years, you guys were out partying while I was sitting on the tour bus wanting to die.’ “

  • Ex-Korn Guitarist Baptized in Jordan River Associated Press, March 5, 2005.
  • Further information on Brian Welch on his website HeadtoChrist.

I. Shawn McElhinney on Terry Schiavo and a "plea for consistent principles"

It looks like Judge Greer has granted Terri Schiavo another stay of execution, buying some time for Terri’s parents, at least until Friday, and granting us as well to step back and, with the help of a fellow blogger, take a broader look at the predicament of Terri Schiavo.

I. Shawn McElhinney (Rerum Novarum) has a provocative and well-written string of posts on this subject. The essence of his argument is this: that there are three fundamental rights of man (life, liberty, property):

The fundamental rights of man are three in number. They are God-given and they precede all man made laws. It is in fact because these rights already existed -and an innate understanding of their implications- which is why men formed societies and wrote laws to begin with. And as these rights do not depend on laws for their existence, they likewise cannot be repealed by laws without perverting justice and the very notion of what law in a just society is intended to achieve.

These rights must be defended together as a unit, or else they will fail — that is to say, to defend one to the exclusion of the others (by neglect and inattention) is ultimately counter-productive.

The argument was made on Rerum Novarum well before the plight of Terri Schiavo, but it is no less relevant to the discussion, and I mention it for the benefit of our readers:

Basically my friends, the approach of too many well-meaning people is merely to get Terri another “stay of execution” and that is not a viable long-term approach to this issue. What is needed long term is learning a valuable theory which will aid people of a conservative mindset in supplying order to their thinking and helping them to see the broader forest for the trees.

But this is not an “either/or” situation by any means but instead it is a “both/and” situation. Or to phrase it in that manner, we should be seeking both to preserve Terri’s life and laying in place a consistent principle of argumentation for defending the fundamental rights of man. These rights are all dependent upon one another and when one is undermined, the other two by logical extension are as well. I am left wondering when Terri’s advocates are not only going to stop seeing this as only a “life” issue but are also going to start seeing both parts of the “both/and” rather than only the first one. But that is all I will say on the matter at this time.

More on Terri Schiavo and the Fundamental Rights of Man. Feb. 18, 2005.

Related posts from Rerum Novarum:

For updates on Terri Schiavo, stay tuned to Fr. Rob Johansen @ Thrown Back.

Monsignor Luigi Giussani 1922-2005 RIP

(AGI) – Rome, Italy, February 22nd. – “I am close in this moment of pain to the friends of Communion and Liberation, who have lost their founder and father”, declared president Silvio Berlusconi, in a note that was released by the Palazzo Chigi press office . . .

Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, Italy.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

Please pray for all of those involved in Communion & Liberation as well, who were inspired in their Christian life by the example of Fr. Giussani.

More news via Google.

From the Communion & Liberation Website:

St. Blog’s Parish

A Novena for the Conversion of Michael Schiavo

A Novena for the Conversion of Michael Schiavo, posted by Jean of Catholic Fire.

Further commentary