Month: June 2009

A deterrent to book theft.

The library of the monastery of San Pedro in Barcelona (as recorded in Manguel, p. 244) was inscribed with the following cautionary words:

“For him that steals, or borrows and returns not, a book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy…. Let bookworms gnaw at his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not. And when at last he goes to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.”

“On Stealing Books”, by Ben Myers (Faith and Theology).


Neda Agha-Soltan: “The Voice of Iran”

  • In a Death Seen Around the World, a Symbol of Iranian Protests, by Nazila Fathi (New York Times):

    Only scraps of information are known about Ms. Agha-Soltan. Her friends and relatives were mostly afraid to speak, and the government broke up public attempts to mourn her. She studied philosophy and took underground singing lessons — women are barred from singing publicly in Iran. Her name means voice in Persian, and many are now calling her the voice of Iran.

    Her fiancé, Caspian Makan, contributed to a Persian Wikipedia entry. He said she never supported any particular presidential candidate. “She wanted freedom, freedom for everybody,” the entry read.

  • Family, friends mourn Neda Agha-Soltan, Iranian woman whose death was caught on video, by Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times). Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, ‘was a beam of light’ and not an activist, friends say. The video footage of her bleeding to death on the street has turned her into an international symbol of the protest movement.

  • In Iran, One Woman’s Death May Have Many Consequences, by Robin Wright. (Time) – Neda is already being hailed as a martyr, a second important concept in Shi’ism. With the reported deaths of 19 people on June 20, martyrdom provides a potent force that could further deepen public anger at Iran’s regime.

On the protests in Iran, see also From Tehran’s Streets: Hope and Rage – A Photo essay from LIFE Magazine. (NOTE: The Tehran-based photojournalist who made these pictures is now missing).

Pope Benedict Roundup!

Perhaps the two most significant events thus far this year for Pope Benedict XVI were his apostolic journey to Cameroon and Angola, Africa.

The pope’s visit to Africa was a momentous occasion, but received precious little coverage by the mainstream media, apart from the fact that he might have mentioned something about condoms, and AIDS.
As Martyn Drakard of MercatorNet exclaimed: “The international media has a woeful ignorance of Africa,” and wonders: “Why don’t they listen to someone who knows?“:

As he flew from Rome to Cameroon for his first African trip, Benedict XVI held a press conference. He spoke of many things relevant to Africa: the credit crisis, its ethical dimension, its social welfare dimension; solidarity between the developed and developing world; corruption; the vibrancy of the faith and energy of the people; how he hopes to implement Catholic social teaching; and a forthcoming Synod of African Bishops. He even rebutted suggestions that he was “lonely” in the Vatican.

Yet what did the media pick up? That the Pope is opposed to condoms as a solution to Africa’s supposedly overwhelming problem: AIDS. And, in fact, he was right to say that condoms are only making the problem worse.

That pretty much set the tenor for the trip, as far as the [Western] media was concerned. As National Catholic Reporter‘s John Allen Jr. remarked:

“I don’t think I’ve ever covered a papal trip where the gap between internal and external perceptions has been as vast as over these three days. It’s almost as if the pope has made two separate visits to Cameroon: the one reported internationally and the one Africans actually experienced.

* * *

The Pope’s visit to the Holy Land (Jordan and Israel, to be precise) received greater attention given its location and current events in the Middle East. On May 20th, during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope reflected on the various stages and sites of his pilgrimage:

… Throughout my visit I wished to be a pilgrim of peace, reminding Jews, Christians and Muslims alike of our commitment, as believers in the one God, to promote respect, reconciliation and cooperation in the service of peace. In Jerusalem, “the city of peace” sacred to the followers of the three great monotheistic traditions, this was the message I brought to the holy places, and particularly to the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. One of the most solemn moments was the commemoration of the victims of the Shoah at Yad Vashem. My visit to the local Churches culminated in the Masses celebrated in Amman, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. My pilgrimage ended in prayer on Calvary and before the Holy Sepulchre — the empty tomb — which continues to radiate a message of hope for individuals and for the whole human family.

For extensive coverage and commentary, do see Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel and the Holy Land.

* * *

On June 21st, Pope Benedict made a pastoral visit to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Graces in San Giovanni Rotondo, where the body of Saint Padre Pio has been on display for 40 years. Teresa Polk (Blog by the Sea) provides a helpful roundup of resources on the Pope’s visit, from the Vatican and elsewhere.

Pope Benedict XVI prays in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City May 15, 2009. In the final act of worship of his visit, Benedict preached a message of hope for all mankind at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. Source: Reuters May 2009

Continuing on with our Roundup

  • In April, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated a low-key [82nd] birthday with his brother at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo. (Catholic News Service):

    The pope, who turned 82 April 16, had a very informal “family celebration” that included a visit by a small group of top Vatican officials, the Vatican’s spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters.

    The officials, including the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, visited the pope in the morning to offer their birthday wishes.

    The pope then had a private lunch with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who turned 85 early this year

    From Ignatius Press: The Pope’s Childhood, In His Own Words. Excerpt from Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium (Ignatius Press, 1997).

  • The expected publication date of Pope Benedict’s third encyclical, “Veritas in Caritate”, is June 29, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. For further coverage and commentary, see this roundup by Carl Olson (Insight Scoop).
  • Public Reason and the Truth of Christianity: The Teachings of Pope Benedict XVI – an essay by Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the director of the Cardinal Van Thuân International Observatory, on the teachings of Benedict XVI on the role of reason and Christianity in the public square.

  • The Pope Versus the Vatican Standpoint Magazine April 2009. George Weigel analyzes Benedict’s working relationship with “an ineffectual Curia, whose gaffes undercut the papal message and erode its authority.”
    “He dies in tears” Amy Welborn (Via Media) offers some thoughts on Ratzinger’s Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, which she has been reading.

  • We are lucky this Pope is ‘ecclesiastically incorrect’, says Dr. Alcuin Reid (The Catholic Herald UK May 22, 2009).
  • Vian’s Choice Delia Gallagher interviews Gian Maria Vian, director of L’Osservatore Romano — in which he clarifies the role the Pope takes in influencing the content of the only newspaper of the Holy See:

    GIANI: I decide the editorial line of the paper, which I evaluate together with the heads of the paper’s departments: Vatican, international, cultural, and religious news.

    GALLAGHER: So the pope does not intervene directly?

    VIAN: The first request of the pope was: more room for international news, more attention to the Eastern Christians — Catholics such as the Maronites and the Melkites, but also the Orthodox churches — and more space for women.

    GALLAGHER: What did the pope mean by “more space for women”?

    VIAN: The pope wishes to highlight as much as possible the role of women in the Church and in the Roman Curia. Ssome even said that he had wanted a woman as director of L’Osservatore Romano, which has always been directed by lay people.

    I interpreted his request of more space for women as indicating both a desire to increase the number of women working at the paper — about a quarter of our staff are women — and I hired the first full-time woman journalist in the history of the paper, as well as giving more space to stories and issues about women. On bioethical issues, particularly abortion, I prefer that we have a woman write the story.

  • Off the radar: Pope’s teaching ministry finds little echo in media John Thavis (Catholic News Service):

    News coverage of Pope Benedict XVI tends to leap from big event to big event, so perhaps it’s no surprise that after his Holy Land pilgrimage last month the German pontiff has fallen off the mainstream media radar. …

    The pattern of media attention — or lack of it — has led some Vatican officials to privately lament what they see as a paradox of Pope Benedict’s pontificate: the pope’s primary focus and greatest talent is teaching, they say, but it’s the kind of teaching that rarely breaks into the news cycle.

Pope Benedict XVI kisses an infant as he leaves his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, June 10, 2009. Source: Associated Press

On a lighter note

  • Pope on Facebook in attempt to woo young believers, by Phillip Puella (Reuters) May 22, 2009:

    You won’t get an email saying Pope Benedict added you as a friend and you can’t “poke” him or write on his wall, but the Vatican is still keen to use the networking site Facebook to woo young people back to church.

    A new Vatican website,, has gone live, offering an application called “The pope meets you on Facebook,” and another allowing the faithful to see the Pope’s speeches and messages on their iPhones or iPods.

  • The Pope is a fan of Spitfire Ale, according to celebrity priest Father Michael Seed:

    [Brewer] Shepherd Neame pointed out that the Pope’s choice was unexpected as Spitfire’s famous tongue-in-cheek, Dad’s Army-style wartime humour advertising includes slogans such as ‘No Fokker Comes Close’ and ‘Goering, Goering, Gone’.

    Spitfire brand manager Charlie Holland added: “The Pope is not the first German to down a Spitfire but certainly the most famous.

    “We are delighted that His Holiness enjoys the unique taste of Spitfire, and we would encourage him to sample another of our fine Kentish ales – and try a Bishops Finger.”

Diagnosing contemporary conservatism’s ills.

“Conservatism–as a philosophical, cultural, and political project–does in fact have boundaries, and those have been set by the cluster of ideas offered by such giants as Burke, Lincoln, Chesterton, Lewis, Hayek, Chambers, Friedman, Kirk, Weaver, Gilder, Buckley, and Reagan. There are, of course, disagreements among these thinkers and their followers, but there is an identifiable stream of thought. It informs our understanding of human nature, families, civil society, just government, and markets.

“What contemporary conservatism has lost–especially in its Hannitized and Coulterized manifestations of superficial ranting–is the connection to a paternity that is necessary so that its intellectual DNA may be passed on to its progeny. The Hannitys, the Counters, and to a lesser extent the Ingrahams, of the conservative world are intellectual mules without deep knowledge of their own patrimony. They speak of their beliefs as if they were mere beliefs whose instantiation in the culture and government can only be the result of the willful exercise of power inspired by mobs organized by them via Talk Radio and Fox TV. I have no doubt that these political celebs sincerely believe their beliefs are true. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that they do not seem to have any inclination to present arguments for these beliefs in a way that is carefully crafted, cheerfully presented, and persuasively offered. Unlike the giants from whom they received their intellectual inheritance, they think only of today and tomorrow, but not of a decade or even three decades from now. Their point seems always to embarrass their liberal guest or opponent or to come up with a clever, sit-com like, one-liner to keep their audiences amused. They don’t seem to want to plant the seeds of intellectual curiosity to inspire others. They confuse moving people with a movement of people. They want a choir without a cathedral.

“On the positive side (for conservatives), the Left’s tactics reveal a lack of rigor on their part as well. They no longer feel confident in making an argument for their point of view with respect to those with whom they disagree. They feel the pressure, like many conservatives do, to bypass the mind and go directly to the gut. This is why, for example, they no longer believe they have to argue that the late-term fetuses whose skulls Dr. Tiller crushed were not members of the human community worthy of dignity and respect. Rather, they will focus on the injustice of Dr. Tiller’s murder and hold all prolifers by proxy responsible for it, and by this tactic drown out the compelling case for the unborn’s membership in the moral community.

“In my judgment, the party that plays for keeps and not for next week will eventually triumph. That means that you have to be a happy warrior, willing to make your case and to take your lumps with magnanimity and grace. It also means that you fight intelligently, and fiercely, for your point of view while resisting the temptation to attack others personally. (And yes, I have fallen short in that regard on many occasions). You can’t be a Keith Olbermann or an Ann Coulter and achieve lasting dominance in American politics. You may make a lot of money, become famous, and/or sell loads of books. Bill Buckley, by the way, achieved those very things without costing him his soul. Better to be a Buckley dissatisfied than a Hannity satisfied.”

Francis Beckwith What’s Wrong With The World June 20, 2009.

Prayer request

My youngest brother, Nathan Blosser, an E6 First Class Petty Officer in the Navy, is bound for a 7-month tour of duty in Afghanistan (following a period of acclimation in Kuwait). He served two years in Rota, Spain, and on one mission to Iraq aboard the USS Kearsarge.

The US Navy has men serving in various capacities in Afghanistan. His wife is expecting their first child within the next couple of months. I’d like to ask the readers of this blog to remember them both in your prayers. Thanks!

Corpus Christi.

A fitting video for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Back in the 1970s, when there was a lot of liturgical innovation going on, Dorothy Day invited a young priest to celebrate mass at the Catholic Worker. He decided to do something that he thought was relevant and hip. He asked Dorothy if she had a coffee cup he could borrow. She found one in the kitchen and brought it to him. And, he took that cup and used it as the chalice to celebrate mass.

When it was over, Dorothy picked up the cup, found a small gardening tool, and went to the backyard. She knelt down, dug a hole, kissed the coffee cup, and buried it in the earth.

With that simple gesture, Dorothy Day showed that she understood something that so many of us today don’t: she knew that Christ was truly present in something as ordinary as a ceramic cup. And that it could never be just a coffee cup again.

She understood the power and reality of His presence in the blessed sacrament. …

(Read the rest of Homily for June 14th, 2009: Corpus Christi / The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ).

First Things’ First Thoughts

Recent visitors to First Things — the much-loved (or reviled) mouthpiece for the grand ecumeniCatholicneoconservativetheoconspiracy — will notice that it has received an impressive virtual makeover.

In addition to their aesthetic revisions, they’ve added a number of new and respectable blogs/bloggers: The Anchoress, Daniel Goldman (aka “Spengler”), Secondhand Smoke (“Your 24/7 Seminar in Bioethics and Being Human”); Postmodern Conservative and Icons and Curiosities (“A shopping blog with Sally Thomas and Jody Bottum”).

I’m also pleased to announce that I have the privilege of contributing to the (relatively) new First Things‘ blog, “First Thoughts”. Those accustomed to my long-winded soliloquies and roundups can expect a more “conversational” feel, — as I will be engaging fellow Catholics Stephen Dillard, Jay Anderson and Paul Zummo and a host of others.

(Here’s hoping I’ll have something worthy to say).

P.S. I will still be making my occasional rounds at the usual haunts: The American Catholic; Catholic Friends of Israel; Catholics In the Public Square and The Benedict Blog. So stay tuned to those, as (insofar as is possible), the content will be exclusive to each.