Month: January 2011

Dialogue with a Troll

There’s nothing like a blog-post about Israel to bring the loons out of the woodwork. So when Dr. Philip Blosser (aka. Pertinacious Papist) circulated a video demonstrating UCLA college student’s appalling ignorance about Israel, it came as no surprise that his comments box would be infested by a troll.

That said, insofar as the consecutive stream of comments compile a number of issues, rumors and/or allegations in a single place (ex. what does the Talmud say about Jesus?; what does it mean that ‘Christians had it better’ under Saddam?; did Israel really ban ‘The Passion of the Christ’?), I’ve decided to use this as an opportunity to address them.


"Career Catholicism"

Many Catholic apologists in this age of social networking and the blogosphere have long ago stopped writing about actual apologetics. They feel their expertise in apologetics (an expertise earned) makes them relevant on various other matters as well, some of which aren’t even remotely religious. (One could read Mark Shea’s rants on foreign affairs and “torture” and one realizes there’s really nothing pro or anti-Catholic about them, they are simply an attempt to use alleged Church teachings to mask his political beliefs.

This trend has proven quite disastrous when many of the apologists started wading into matters where Catholics of good will could take varying prudential stances. With a few notable exceptions, the apologetics movement had some of the harshest critics of those who were attached to the Latin Mass and various approaches to handling the faith. It wasn’t enough to accept Vatican II as a valid ecumenical council whose decrees are binding upon the faithful. It had to be “the highest form of thought the Church has ever had.” (To paraphrase Dave Armstrong in a dispute I had with him in the past.) To say that John Paul II did some good and some not so good things is indeed beyond the pale. If you don’t refer to him as “John Paul the Great”, it is evidence you are resisting the Holy Ghost. These are prudential matters that cannot be solved by the intellectual formulations of apologetics. Catholics of goodwill are free to take a variety of positions on these and countless other issues.

I think it goes without saying that many in the apologetics movement have well overstepped this boundary. Part of the problem is what I call the curse of “Career Catholicism” … [more]

Kevin Tierney on the Difficulties of the “Apologetics Mindset” (Common Sense Catholicism January 25, 2011).


"Settle for nothing less."

Q: What kind of Catholic are you?
A: Bad.
Q: No, I mean are you liberal or conservative?
A: I no longer know what those words mean.
Q: Are you a dogmatic Catholic or an open-minded Catholic?
A: I don’t know what that means, either. Do you mean I believe the dogma that the Catholic Church proposes for belief?
Q: Yes.
A: Yes.
Q: How is such a belief possible in this day and age?
A: What else is there?
Q: What do you mean, what else is there? There is humanism, atheism, agnosticism, Marxism, behavioralism, materialism, Buddhism, Muhammadanism, Sufism, astrology, occultism, theosophy.
A: That’s what I mean.
Q: To say nothing of Judaism or Protestantism.
A: Well, I would include them along with the Catholic Church in the whole peculiar Jewish-Christian thing.
Q: I don’t understand. Would you exclude, for example, scientific humanism as a rational and honorable alternative?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: It’s not good enough.
Q: Why not?
A: This life is too much trouble, far too strange, to arrive at the end of it and then to be asked what you make of it and have to answer, “Scientific humanism.” That won’t do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love is a delight. Therefore I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight, i.e., God. In fact, I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less.

Conversations with Walker Percy (1985)

Enlightened Scoffing.

Brian Van Hove, S.J. reviews Diarmaid MacCulloch’s . He finds the author

… proclaims himself a skeptic although he writes with the zeal of an apostate. His is a paradoxical mixture of both skepticism and appreciation of religion, especially Christianity. At times he reveals classical Greek tastes which are benevolently pre-Christian, though he has been shaped by the Enlightenment. His erudition permits him to indulge freely in refined, urbane scoffing. And his erudition is considerable.

According to Fr. Hove, book has received raved reviews, particularly in university circles, “because the readership in such settings agrees with the negative assessment of the Enlightenment in matters of religion, especially Christianity.”

Coincidentally, Rowan Williams, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, deems it a “triumphantly executed achievement” with “few, if any, rivals in the English language.”

I’m about 6 chapters in and I must say I share Father Hove’s impression. My free time these days is sorely limited. I think I might resume plugging away at Jaroslav Pelikan’s intellectual history of ‘The Christian Tradition.’

Pope Benedict XVI on Prayer and Theology

This drama, in which theology keeps talking although God who can speak and listen has long ago submerged together with the myths, is fascinating in the way it seems to spread, presenting itself quietly, piously, without the least trumpeting of heresy, as the most natural thing in the world. …

We do not know what human experiences, sufferings and crises lie behind words such as these; we must respect them: it is not our business to judge. On the other hand, we are obliged to state firmly that this is not Christian theology. For the prime characteristic of Christian faith is that it is faith in God. Furthermore, that this God is someone who speaks, someone to whom man can speak. The Christian God is characterized by revelation, that is, by the words and deeds in which he addresses man, and the goal of revelation is man’s response in word and deed, which thus expands revelation into a dialogue between Creator and creature which guides man toward union with God. So prayer is not something on the periphery of the Christian concept of God; it is a fundamental trait. The whole Bible is dialogue: on the one side, revelation, God’s words and deeds, and on the other side, man’s response in accepting the word of God and allowing himself to be led by God. To delete prayer and dialogue, genuine two-way dialogue, is to delete the whole Bible.

“On the Theological Basis Of Prayer and Liturgy”(1986)
Republished in The Essential Pope Benedict XVI: His Central Writings and Speeches