Here and There . . .

An irregular roundup of blogs, articles and commentary.

  • Rev. Thomas J. Reese, editor of America Magazine, is being replaced. According to the Associated Press:

    he editor of the Jesuit weekly America is leaving the magazine after the Vatican received complaints about articles he published on touchy issues such as same-sex marriages and stem cell research, Jesuit officials said Friday. . . .

    Jesuit officials in Rome and the United States, who spoke on condition they not be identified, said some American bishops had contacted the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about articles in the magazine over the years that had presented both sides of controversies over sensitive church issues.

    “Fr Thomas Reese Purged Or ‘America’ Restored?”, John Heard notes that “in their warped understanding [of the Vatican’s critics], demanding compassion for the unborn and intellectual rigour from the editor of a Catholic journal is not a valid exercise of authority, it is always arbitrary.” Good commentary as well by Mark Brumley @ Insight Scoop.

  • “Us and Them”. Michelle Malkin has a photograph that captures “the difference between US forces in Iraq and the Michael Moore’s ‘minutemen,’ and posts the story behind the picture. Check it out.
  • “Teaching Tradition” National Review May 4, 2005. claims that “When it comes to traditional morality, President Bush — not John Paul II — has it right.” Some Catholic readers react with predictable knee-jerk reaction. Someguy from Mystery Achievement extracts the issues worth discussing.
  • BeliefNet.com profiles Ingrid Stampa: The Pope’s “Right Hand Woman:

    . . . One of the most reassuring signs of his personal stamp on the office is taking place away from the public gaze. In an unprecedented move, Benedict has tapped Stampa, a 55-year-old German laywoman and academic who has served as his live-in personal assistant since 1991, to bring her counsel, support, and “brain trust” role to Catholicism’s most hallowed corridor of power.

    Stampa, who has never married, is a lay affiliate of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, a group founded in 20th century Germany which, according to its publications, is dedicated to forming “a community of lay leaders in the Church and secular spheres.”

    Wire reports have characterized Stampa solely as “the housekeeper.” But given the Pope’s reliance on her as his all-access confidante, the better analogy is to see Stampa as Karen Hughes to Benedict’s President Bush. While she has served as Ratzinger’s domestic–a role which she took up on the death of his sister and trusted counsel, Maria–she was never just a cook and clerk for Ratzinger. On the contrary, Stampa—a former professor at the conservatory of Hamburg who speaks at least three languages and has an advanced degree in ancient music–ghostwrites and translates for him. She will now serve Benedict XVI as the first member of the papacy’s inner circle . . .

    Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful and “feminist Catholics” take notice:

    By appointing the first laywoman in the Vatican’s long history to enjoy a Pope’s daily confidences with a strong voice over his schedule and activities, Benedict is not only holding to his policy of keeping the best, brightest, and most honest aides around him. With this move, the Pope has sent a strong indicator of support for those who have called for greater inclusion of rank-and-file Catholics, particularly women, in the Church’s daily life and administration at all levels.

    (Further comment): Beliefnet’s article really lays the politicized feminist interpretation on thick, but from a human perspective, I think it’s a touching account:

    “Even before the cardinals were released from the Conclave, Ingrid Stampa’s boss called her to his side. As she wept at the sight of an old friend in his new robes, he told her, “Let us together follow the will of God.'”

    It reminded me of Pope John Paul II, who after his election suprised a lot of people by having his first papal audience not with any powerful dignitary or member of the clergy, but with his childhood friend, Jerzy Kluger. That is to say, Karol Wojtyla’s sudden elevation to the throne of St. Peter, Bishop of Rome, wasn’t about to get in the way of their simple and lasting friendship.

    So, I’m inclined to see Pope Benedict’s relationshiop with Ingrid in that light.

  • Nathan Nelson posts his thoughts on “strict constructionism”: “My question . . . is simply this: How can you be Catholic and favor strict constructionism? — The very nature of the Catholic Church, and of Christianity itself really, is opposed to a strict constructionist mentality.” Mark Windsor responds.
  • Stephen Riddle (Flos Carmeli) explains “What I Learned from Blogging–Part DCCCCLXXV”.
  • Bill Cork presents the main points of dispute in the famous ‘Ratzinger-Kasper’ debate (“What comes first, the universal church or the local church?”).
  • “The Vicar of Heterodoxy” – Dr. Philip Blosser believes “Andrew Sullivan’s dogma is a circular system that’s immune to reasoned query,” in a parody of a Time magazine editorial by Sullivan himself.
  • Fr. Kimel at Pontifications wants to know if you “have a Pope in your belly?”:

    How little can I get away with believing and still be considered a card-carrying Christian? This attitude might be described as the liberal Protestant disease. Those of us who are Episcopalians are well acquainted with this disease, and we know that the disease affects most Christian traditions. But I confess that I am always a little bit shocked when I see Catholics expressing similar attitudes. . . .
  • Pacifism = Heresy? — my brother publishes the exchange of one of his “rapid-fire email debates with one of my readers and friends, the Polish Prince” to a flurry of comments. (Hmmmmm, I see Steven Riddle has already responded, but one might expect Chris Sullivan to be weighing in on this conversation as well?)
  • Blogging on one of the latest moral skirmishes in the relationship between Church and State, Earl E. Appleby (Times Against Humanity) explains that “More At Stake Than A Pharmacist’s Beliefs”.
  • Fr. Jim Tucker on Knowing Whether We Love God (Sunday homily):

    Fairly often, good-hearted people torture themselves, trying to figure out whether they really love God or not, and they try to measure the quality of their emotions when they pray, or the ardor of their sentiments when they think of God, and if they don’t get the warm fuzzies they are afraid that they don’t truly love Him, or that their faith is lacking. Emotions are never a trustworthy guide to our spiritual state, in much the same way as feelings really don’t guide us in the practice of Christian morality. In fact, they often mislead us. The keeping of the commandments, on the other hand, is a much surer criterion. We are changing creatures existing in time, and the best indication of our interior state are the concrete choices and decisions that we make. . . .

    God has called on us to love Him above all things? Who here does? Nobody. Not a single one of us, from the priest in the pulpit down to the usher at the front door. We are imperfect, and so our love fails, and the concrete signs of that are our sins. There are some commandments that are hard for me to follow, and I don’t particularly like them, but I try to do so anyway. There are perhaps other ones that you don’t like, either, and that give you trouble. Well, I guess that’s just tough, both for you and for me. We know we’re imperfect, and we make wholesome use of Confession, and we keep aiming for a perfect observance of the commandments, which is to say, a perfect love for God. Don’t let your failures discourage you or your sins blind you to the fact that you are, we hope, making some progress and coming closer to the goal of perfect conformity to the Will of God. If we don’t give up, and if we keep asking pardon when we fail, we know that God will little by little give us the grace we need eventually to love Him with our whole hearts.

    Good words from a good priest — thank you, Father. =)

  • Juventutem is an international delegation of traditional youth to the XXth World Youth Day in Cologne 2005. The delegation is named Juventutem after a quote from the prayers at the foot of the altar in the 1962 Missal: “Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum Qui laetificat juventutem meam.”

    According to Juventutem:

    “There is a modern cult of youth, as though youthfulness itself were the greatest good humans possess. We have chosen a name which refers to the only genuine youth that there is: the one dependent not on number of years or cosmetic manipulation, but rather that spiritual youth which flows from humble and confident familiarity with Divine Grace. This will be the first official traditional Catholic delegation to World Youth Day. We have consecrated our mission to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and go to spread the Faith for the greater glory of God.
  • Love Alone is Believable: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Apologetics, by Fr. John R. Cihak @ Ignatius Insight:

    Though people may glaze over when one makes claims of truth and goodness, their ears seem to perk up at the mention of beauty: the flash of lightening across the sky, the dramatic auburn colors of a late summer sunset, a sublime snatch of music whether it be Mozart’s Requiem or a David Gilmour guitar solo.

    An even more intense encounter is with the beauty that expresses human love: the exhilaration when love is extended and the other’s eyes sparkle, trembling lips break into a smile and say “Yes.” The heart soars, and one may even weep for joy. Often the encounter is described as being swept off one’s feet. Though perhaps darkened to what is true and good, the post-modern heart is still captivated by beauty revealing love, and this may be the road to Christ for many citizens of the post-modern world. . . .

  • Pope spoke the truth, by Andrew Bolt. The Australian Herald Sun April 13, 2005. A dismantling of the “Pope killed thousands — wait, millions — of Africans by banning condoms in the fight against AIDS” slur against John Paul II. Further discussion at Open Book.

On a lighter note . . .

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