Saturday, November 29, 2008

Spotlight: Catholic Writers

Fifty years ago, Edwin O'Connor's novel, The Last Hurrah, was released as a film, coining a popular expression, spotlighting Boston Irish culture, and bringing recognition to one of the most significant of America's Catholic writers.

There are dozens of well-known American authors who might be characterized as Catholic by baptism, by adherence, by theme, or by sensibility. This summary focuses on those who were most prominent in their day and who are widely recognized as Catholic in their beliefs and perspective.

Despite its relative paucity of Catholic population, the South has produced a large share of the faith’s best writers. Father Abram Ryan was a Confederate army chaplain from Virginia who composed the famous poem, “Conquered Banner.” James Ryder Randall, originally of Baltimore, taught in New Orleans, where he wrote verse celebrating the Confederacy, such as “Maryland, My Maryland.” He became known as the “Poet Laureate of the Lost Cause.” Georgian Joel Chandler Harris, author of African-American folk tales featuring Uncle Remus, converted to Catholicism late in life.

The problems of the Old South permeated the pages of later southern writers as well. Allen Tate, a convert-poet, was a figure in the celebrated Southern Agrarians, who struck a critical stance toward the modernizing of American culture. Tate was married for a time to novelist Caroline Gordon, who preceded him into the Church. Later southern Catholic writers displayed less sympathy for the Old South, but struck many of the same themes of faith, race, and rural life. Flannery O’Connor, perhaps the most acclaimed Catholic writer of the twentieth century, produced a series of short stories and novels, and Walker Percy’s Catholic sensibility salted his tales of lust, disillusionment, and death.

Outside the South, Catholic novelists flourished in New England, where Mary Agnes Tincker wrote a series of well-received stories in the 1870s and 1880s; and in the Midwest, where John F. Powers published short stories and novels on Catholic parish life, most notably the 1963 National Book Award winner, Morte d’Urban [Powers taught at St. John's in Collegeville]. John Boyle O’Reilly, editor of the Boston Pilot, also wrote novels; as did the first woman to edit the Pilot, Katherine Conway. Bostonian Edwin O'Connor fictionalized Irish-American life with great success: he won a Pulitzer Prize for his Edge of Sadness (1961)

Another center of Catholic literary activity, unsurprisingly, was New York, where Mary Sadlier hosted salons for the city’s Irish writers in the 1860s, and where Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Phyllis McGinley wrote her verse a hundred years later. Two other Catholic poets were women religious: Carmelite Jessica Powers of Wisconsin and Holy Cross Sister Madeleva Wolff at St. Mary’s College in Indiana.

Another Pulitzer winner was Paul Horgan, who won two for his popular histories of the American Southwest. Philadelphian Agnes Repplier authored historical biographies of significant American Catholics such as Jacques Marquette and Junípero Serra.

As in other areas of intellectual life, converts were major figures in Catholic fiction and non-fiction writing. Besides Tincker, Harris, Tate, and Gordon, there was Anne Dorsey, a novelist in Washington, D.C. Conversion was a subject for Thomas Merton, whose celebrated autobiography, Seven Story Mountain, won both critical acclaim and attention for the Church and its monastic tradition—a way of life strange to most Americans.

Catholic writers have contributed immensely to the richness of American literature by focusing on subjects and by bringing perspectives that were absent or underappreciated. The trend continues to the present—for example in Santa Clara University’s Ron Hansen, whose 1992 bestseller Mariette in Ecstasy creatively explored the inner life of a cloistered French nun. Contemporary American Catholic writers work within a long and distinguished tradition.

©2008 Posted November 29, 2008.

Sources and Further Reading

Una M. Cadegan, "U.S. Catholic Literature."

Ross Labrie, The Catholic Imagination in American Literature

Farrell O'Gorman, Peculiar Crossroads: Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and Catholic Vision in Postwar Southern Fiction

Arnold Sparr, To Promote, Defend, and Redeem: The Catholic Literary Revival and the Cultural Transformation of American Catholicism, 1920-1960


A Parent's Guide: Teaching the Truth & Meaning of Human Sexuality

Colleen Perfect of Catholic Parents OnLine has informed us that they have just completed a dynamic new 55 minute DVD production entitled: A Parent's Guide: Teaching the Truth & Meaning of Human Sexuality, that is based on the Church document, "The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality" written in 1995 by the Pontifical Council for the Family.

You can watch a preview HERE

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Terry Nelson wasn't kidding (as is often the case) when he talked about an art show


Blogger Terry Nelson has posted some of his most recent art on his Abbey-Roads web page

There are ten posts, all consecutive, each with several small paintings. I know you will enjoy them.
It's wonderful to find a blogger who has this much talent.
The exhibit consists of small paintings and drawings by Terry Nelson on paper. Each piece is approximately 5" x 7", and is executed in oils, or crayon. The pieces will be shown in groups of 2 or 3 on separate posts. No particular order or classification is made as regards subject matter. The exhibit is a glimpse into the concept of compartmental thought, as well as vision; whether it comprises one's perception of the details of a painting, a landscape, an aspiration, or a memory. The work is serious, albeit undisciplined; the result of an exercise of free association and expression.

If you are viewing this in late November, you will find them near the top of this link:
Otherwise, take a look:

You can also find all of the paintings by searching for the word "compartments" in the box at the top left of Terry's Abbey-Roads blog.

Solving the Priest Shortage: Modernists say "Let's get rid of clerical celibacy." Trappists say "Let's Pray in Latin."

Which one do you think is winning?

Damien Thompson, blogger for the Telegraph and editor of the Catholic Herald in England, posted this today: A press statement by Trappists might seem like a contradiction in terms, but yesterday the only Trappist community in Germany issued one, explaining that it is returning to traditional Latin worship because the reforms of the Second Vatican Council have not yielded their promised fruits.

As the New Liturgical Movement blog reports, the monks of Mariawald in the diocese of Aachen have petitioned Pope Benedict XVI for the right to return to "the Ancient Use of the Order". And he has granted it happily, because this thriving little community is invoking his own great apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum.

I'm going to reproduce Abbot Josef Vollberg's statement in full because it is infused with the spirit of the Benedictine reform - Benedictine in both senses, since Trappists are Cistercian monks who strictly observe the rule of St Benedict.

Note that Dom Josef observes pointedly that, worldwide, it is monasteries which have returned to their ancient roots that are producing vocations. In contrast, I might add, modernised Benedictine monasteries are in trouble pretty much everywhere - and especially in England.

Why does the Church in this country not have one bishop who "gets" the reforms of Pope Benedict, as Dom Josef does? Why is England and Wales just about the only Western jurisidiction in which the seeds of the papal renewal are not being planted by the successors of the Apostles?

But you've heard all that from me before. Here is the Trappist statement. Silence, please:

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has granted to the abbot of the Trappist abbey Mariawald (diocese of Aachen), Dom Josef Vollberg OCSO, according to his petition, the privilege to return with his abbey to the liturgy and observance in the Ancient Use of the Order which was in force up to the reforms in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

This so-called "use of Monte Cistello" was approved during the time of the Council in the years 1963/1964 as a preliminary step of reform.

In a letter of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" of 21 November 2008 this papal privilege is granted to the Abbey. In it, reference is made to the personal decision of the Holy Father to accede in all respects to the privileges desired by the Trappist for a full return to the Ancient Use in liturgy and monastic life. This includes the return to the ancient liturgical tradition of the Order in the celebration of Mass and Divine Office as it was binding until the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.

The project of reform in Mariawald and the petition of the Abbot concerning this can be regarded as a fruit of the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI for the renewal of the Church in the spirit of tradition.

As the various postconciliar reforms have not yielded for the monastery the expected flowering in liturgy and in the life of the Convent, now the return to tradition links to the centuries-old tradition of the Order. Through the return to the ancient Gregorian liturgy and the stricter use of the monastic form of life, Dom Josef promises himself new spiritual impulses, also regarding new vocations for the abbey.

Worldwide, it can be felt that monastic communities, which cultivate the preconciliar Latin liturgy, can boast of significant numbers of vocations. Especially in France, on the background of a traditional interpretation of the rule of St Benedict and the Gregorian liturgy in Mass and Divine Office, there are flourishing abbeys. In Germany it has previously not been possible for vocations to the monastic life of a traditional form to join a corresponding community. With the papal privilege in Germany, too, there is now for the first time the possibility for young men to live the ancient tradition of contemplative life in the august forms of the classical liturgy and in the strict observance of the rule of St Benedict.

Dom Josef sees himself confirmed in his decision by the Holy Father, whose generously formulated privilege of all desired forms of return to tradition also bespeaks his personal desire that in the rediscovery of the ancient liturgy and manner of life, a renewal of monastic life as a whole may be stimulated. Thus, the abbot is convinced, the personal and direct action of the Pope for the Mariawald Abbey corresponds to the "Project of Tradition", which the Holy Father has initiated in 2007 by his Motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" for the liturgy.

Dom Josef finds himself and his abbey sustainably motivated by the Holy Father and his immediate and direct papal juridical act, to implement the tradition-oriented reform of the monastery with new spiritual vigour for the sake of its future. The Abbey assumes in this a pioneering role worldwide to renew the monastic life out of the spirit of tradition and to counteract the decline of monastic life, which especially some Trappist abbeys have had to experience in recent years.

In the field of economics, the monastery has in recent years already put an emphasis on its focus on organic agriculture. Now it is the spiritual content of contemplative life ehich is to receive new stimuli from the great tradition of the Order and its classical Latin liturgy.

Currently in Mariawald there are living ten monks, a novice and an oblate. The history of the abbey began with the founding of a Cistercian priory in the 15th Century. After an interruption of monastic life of more than sixty years through the turmoil of the French Revolution, the monastery, newly populated in the 19th Century by Trappists from Alsace, was raised to abbey on the Feast of St Michael in 1909.

On the background of this historic date, now the implementation of the full return of the abbey to the old tradition of contemplative life and to classical Gregorian liturgy is to be completed on the Centenary on 29 September 2009.

Marienwald, the 25th of November, 2008
Dom Josef Vollberg, O.C.S.O., abbot

The Penitential Advent Season is Coming; The beginning of the new liturgical year is a good time to go to Confession

It's not mentioned much from the ambo (one of those Vatican II words I hate so much), but Advent, which starts this coming Sunday is not only the start of the Church's liturgical year, but also a penitential season akin to Lent. Advent is a good time to set a clean slate by going to Confession and then doing some penances to signify your commitment to living a better life for Jesus this year.

Giving up thing is tough during Advent when parties are frequent. Back in the olden days, in high school, one of the nuns came up to a bunch of us and suggested that we should re-schedule our school Christmas Party for a time outside of Advent since it was not appropriate to have parties in Advent. She suggested that we have it around the Feast of the Epiphany, the celebration of the joyous moment when Jesus made Himself known to the Gentile world. Needless to say, this didn't go over very well with 16 year old boys and the term "'Piphany Party" became a byword for a week or so until it was forgotten. But Sister was right, you know.

Father Z, (Father John Zuhlsdorf) posted yesterday on Archbishop John Nienstedt's "General Confession Column" in the Catholic Spirit earlier this month. He has his pithy emphases and comments for you to see HERE. Then he posted his "Twenty Practical Tips for Making a Good Confession."

1) ...examine our consciences regularly and thoroughly;
2) ...wait our turn in line patiently;
3) ...come at the time confessions are scheduled, not a few minutes before they are to end;
4) ...speak distinctly but never so loudly that we might be overheard;
5) ...state our sins clearly and briefly without rambling;
6) ...confess all mortal sins in number and kind;
7) ...listen carefully to the advice the priest gives;
8) ...confess our own sins and not someone else’s;
9) ...carefully listen to and remember the penance and be sure to understand it;
10) ...use a regular formula for confession so that it is familiar and comfortable;
11) ...never be afraid to say something "embarrassing"... just say it;
12) ...never worry that the priest thinks we are jerks…. he is usually impressed by our courage;
13) ...never fear that the priest will not keep our confession secret… he is bound by the Seal;
14) ...never confess "tendencies" or "struggles"... just sins;
15) ...never leave the confessional before the priest has finished giving absolution;
16) ...memorize an Act of Contrition;
17) ...answer the priest’s questions briefly if he asks for a clarification;
18) ...ask questions if we can’t understand what he means when he tells us something;
19) ...keep in mind that sometimes priests can have bad days just like we do;
20) ...remember that priests must go to confession too … they know what we are going through.

What Does the Prayer Really Say

Speaking of Confession, Father Z finally got around to posting and commenting on Archbishop Nienstedt's column on the prohibition of indiscriminate "General Confessions" in lieu of private Confession with your priest. Stella Borealis posted it a few weeks ago. There have been some good comments on Father Z's post a few of which I post here:

• • • • • •


  1. I have a somewhat tangential question.

    Are there any regulations regarding a priest hearing confession and granting absolution over the phone?

    [It is FORBIDDEN and INVALID to give sacramental absolution over the phone.]

    Comment by Bill Haley — 25 November 2008 @ 3:59
  2. One of the good things about living near or working in a downtown of a major city is access to so-called “commuter churches”. These churches typically make priests available to hear confessions before and after work and during lunch hours. In my experience, there is usually a line at these hours as well as at churches that hear confessions prior to Sunday Mass. The only time I don’t find a line for the confessional seems to be at the typical “Sat. 4:00-4:45pm or by appointment” churches.

    I know that in rural or even suburban areas daily confession and even Sunday confession is not always feasible. Still, I have no doubt if the days and times for confession were increased, along with an emphasis on the sacrament from the pulpit, there would also be an increase in confessions heard. It seems that if churches in a given geographical area could coordinate their schedules, confession could be made more widely available without increasing the workload of often overworked priests.

    Comment by David D. — 25 November 2008 @ 5:03 pm
  3. For Father and any other priestly readers:

    I have a very hard time speaking due to my disability. In my parish, we have confessionals that allow both kneeling behind a screen and face-to-face, so I just scribble down things on a notepad and let Father read it and then gasp out an act of contrition after he gives me my penance.

    Are there any general guidelines for mutes or almost-mutes as far as how to communicate with the priest?

    Comment by Jacob — 25 November 2008 @ 5:56 pm

    1. Jacob: I would only say that care should be taken so that a) no one overhear your confession or b) the paper is destroyed.

      Comment by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf — 25 November 2008 @ 8:18 pm
    2. Dear Jacob: communicate as best as you are able. Letting the priest know your difficulty via a note when you enter would be helpful for him to help you confess. Try to figure out a system that works best for you, and any priest I know would be most accomodating. Here is a short article about confessions for a deaf-mute community that I found interesting and inspiring:,9171,932169,00.html .
      Comment by A Random Friar — 25 November 2008 @ 6:59 pm

  4. I have one serious comment to make.

    While one can only welcome His Grace’s clear statement that the general absolution is forbidden, in practice there will be priests who would disobey; and what His Grace fails to say is that those opportunists, or mislead people who do not have intention to confess their sins as soon as possible, do not receive the Sacrament validly, i.e. that their sins are nor forgiven by such an absolution.

    Comment by Michael — 25 November 2008 @ 6:06 pm
  5. Randy usefully provided a link to the bulletin of, what in charity, might be called a recalcitrant priest. Some interesting excerpts:

    “In May, Archbishop Nienstedt will become our new bishop. He too comes to us from another place. He has given a very clear “no,” or can I say, “nein,” to the continued use of Form 3. This is very sad.”

    “Our celebrations of Form 3 have been very well planned and include participation of our choirs and specially prepared liturgies and homilies.” (I love the phrase “specially prepared liturgies”.) [That’s like saying “Please come to our previously scheduled emergency.”]

    “In the future with the new episcopal regime [sounds sinister] we will have changes. We could continue to have communal penance services without the words of absolution but trusting in the words of the Lord that his merciful presence is there when we gather in his name. At this time I would also like to send in a petition along with any of your own personal comments to our bishops. To serve is to listen. I have heard the voice of the faithful and believe that our bishops should also listen. The petitions and response forms will be available at the communal reconciliation services tomorrow.” [I think that if I were the Archbishop in question, I wouldn’t have appreciated that priest’s manipulation of his flock in this manner for the sake of his own personal position.]

    Comment by Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada — 25 November 2008 @ 6:55 pm
  6. Archbishop Nienstedt conducted the penance practicum when he was rector at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit back in the early ‘90’s, when I was a seminarian there. I remember very clearly his catechesis on the sacrament and his insights into each “confession” we had in the class. The manner in which I hear confessions now has been shaped largely by him, and I am grateful for that formation. The people of his archdiocese would do well to pay close attention to his catechesis.

    Comment by Fr. Brian Stanley — 25 November 2008 @ 8:11 pm
  7. sekman: Is a priest allowed to hear confessions outside of his diocese without permission of the local ordinary? I have heard this before however have seen visiting priests hear confession in my diocese along with my priest hear confessions while outside of his diocese.

    Yes. If he has faculties in his own diocese or religious institute or order, he can hear confessions anywhere. However, if he is going to be in a place for more than just a short period, he should also be given faculties by the local bishop.

    Before the new Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church in 1983 things were a bit more strict. I don’t know how the Code for the Eastern Churches handles this.

    Comment by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf — 25 November 2008 @ 8:16 pm
  8. There is a priest in my diocese who for a penance tells penitents to “go to Holy Communion.” It seems odd, but I don’t question him. [Hmmm… that doesn’t sound like it falls into the category of “doing penance”.]

    Comment by Geoffrey — 25 November 2008 @ 8:59 pm
  9. Since I’ve started attending the TLM at our parish, I’ve been confessing more often right before that Mass, instead of driving downtown Saturday evening. I’ve noticed that the TLM Massgoers spend a very long time in the confessional, and frankly it’s making me nervous that I’m confessing less completely than I should be. I do try to search my conscience thoroughly, but as a homeschooling housewife, my constricted life makes my sins limited (though not at all infrequent). I generally have the same sins, which don’t take long to confess, and I’m out of the confessional in less than half the time of those in line in front of me.

    The Saturday penitents are likewise brief. What are the TLM penitents doing that the rest of us are neglecting?

    Comment by o.h. — 25 November 2008 @ 9:20 pm
  10. Not to be mean-spirited—but there are also the Confessional HOGS…full aware that there may be only an hour or so available for Confession (and one priest) yet take up the entire time. That was a common occurance at one parish that I would stop by occasionally. This one individual would park right by the door starting at around 9:30 am ( Confession was at 3:30) so she could be the FIRST in line…She would then proceed to WEEP and wail LOUDLY ( you try to practice custody of the ears but you could still hear her clear across the church.)..meanwhile the line would grow long and longer…. the priest would finally get her to leave with about 30 seconds left for Confession. That sure drove alot of folks away. Can’t priests recommend to those folks that they arrange for a private appointment?? When I went through RCIA that was recommended to me as I had a rather lengthy First Confession set up.

    On the other hand—in the military in deployed areas we had what what we called “drive-by confessions.” About one step above general absolution I guess..we would form a line and one at a time we would say “Bless me Father for I have sinned.. I have committed # Mortal sins and for that I am truely sorry.” Real quick absolution and usually Penance was 1 Our Father and 1 Hail Mary. ...of course these were in places were chapels were not readily available. You were done in about 15 seconds. God Bless our military chaplains though..they really helped me through a bunch..

    Comment by Sara — 25 November 2008 @ 10:14 pm
  11. In the old days Confession for adults was offered on Saturday evening beginning at about 7:30. It was an ideal time. All the Saturday errands had been run, the evening meal eaten, the encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist the next morning was looming larger in the mind. There was nothing standing in the way of going to Confession.

    What an ideal ambience for the confession of sins! The end of the day was reminiscent of the end of life itself. The Church was in semi-darkness, which is just where unconfessed sinners want to be. Coming into the Church one could immediately find anonymity in the darkness to kneel and examine his conscience. It was an atmosphere very conducive to remorse and repentance. Far away in the gloom the flickering sanctuary lamp reminded us of the loving presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

    The line typically had 8 or 9 people in it, with everyone subdued and prayerful. After confession one could walk up to the communion rail and say his penance and then stay some time in the holy presence of Christ. There was time to be prayerful. There was no rush to get groceries or to the soccer game or the cleaners…

    Confession situated in this time slot made it a very easy habit to keep week after week. The very arrival of Saturday evening carried an implicit question, “Do you need to go to Confession?” Everything else had been taken care of- except one’s soul.

    A very positive corollary to this frequenting of auricular Confession by so many Catholics ( the priests made it easy for us by situating it on Saturday evening) was that it made great preachers of our priests. They knew where their people were. They knew what had to be addressed- and they addressed it in no uncertain terms.

    Our pastor was like Moses newly descended from the mountain, but he did not need Aaron to speak for him. “We do not get our religion from the Chicago Tribune!” he thundered. Yes, there was a lot of thunder and lightning from that pulpit, from accumulated shocks in the confessional I would guess. It was all good, all grist for the mill, from a great priest who was salt and light for his congregation- probably in large part because he faithfully heard their confessions.

    Comment by Lee Gilbert — 26 November 2008 @ 12:29 am
  12. Today I was at the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Archbishop Nienstedt’s qrchdiocese. There was already a long line for the confessional an hour before Mass. I counted around 25 people who were in the line. This is good news…

    Comment by T-mac — 26 November 2008 @ 12:44 am
  13. Christa: During our last penitence service (before Easter) our senior priest made a point of saying that we only needed to confess things we had DONE. Having bad thoughts, he said, were temptations and if we didn’t act on them they weren’t sins…. Are we not to confess bad thoughts?

    In a sense thinking is doing. If you have a thought of some sort, and you know it is wrong, and fight it or strive to put it out of your head or try to turn you mind and correct yourself, you have done well and needn’t be overly concerned. We get into trouble when, having that thought, we make the choice to harbor it, foster it, give consent of will to it and truly make it our own in a deeper sense.

    Those are the sorts of things we need to confess.

    It is true that not all bad thoughts are mortal sins, but they are not good and they are tricky moments. We can indeed sin mortally in thought, as well as word and deed and omission. Thinking is a human act, a thing we do.

    But a simple tendency or passing thought which we shove aside or correct, while something to be wary of, is more than likely not a mortal sin. Winning by struggling against a tendency is a good thing! You can confess it as a venial sin, of course and you should examine your conscience regularly to make sure that you are not just fooling yourself… for God cannot be fooled. But I wouldn’t make fleeting thoughts into more than what they are, especially if you do the good thing and successfully fend them off and correct yourself.

    Comment by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf — 26 November 2008 @ 1:09 am
  14. I’ll be putting news of this initiative and a link to this discussion up at mine very shortly. In the meantime, a few observations:

    1. With regard to the question of thoughts vs. deeds, the prayer of the Church is confiteor Deo omnipotenti…quia nimis peccavi COGITATIONE verbo opere et omissione. [I confess to Almighty sins of thoughts, words, deeds and omissions...] The priest who gave you that advice was probably acting out of a misguided but legitimate pastoral sensitivity, but his counsel was bad and wrong.

    2. To Fr. Zuhlsdorf, re. passing thoughts, etc.: I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard a priest say something to the effect of, “you don’t need to confess that.” It is not as bad as “that’s not a sin anymore,” but it is still bad. Of course, one may obtain forgiveness for venial sins by a sincere act of prayerful contrition: one cannot obtain SACRAMENTAL forgiveness. It is in the SACRAMENT that we ORDINARILY obtain saving grace.

    Comment by Chris Altieri — 26 November 2008 @ 3:42 am
  15. I haven’t read all the comments so I’m not sure if this has been said yet or not, but I’ve seen a lot of comments about how there are not enough times available for confession. I don’t think this is the real problem. I can’t make it to confession on Saturday evenings, which is when confession is at my church, so I make an appointment with the priest in a church near work and see him for confession on my lunch hour. Of course, you have to confess face to face, but after doing this more and more it has become less and less difficult, or embarrasing I guess you could say (I know we should be embarrased Father Z, but it can be). Anyways, if people really want to go to confession, they can, the problem is that people don’t realize the importance of it anymore. I can’t tell you how much better I feel after I started going regularly 4 years ago. People need to be catechised better.

    Comment by Mark — 26 November 2008 @ 6:42 am
  16. Dear Mark,

    The issue is not comfort. The issue is one of penitents’ rights. Christians have a right to the grill.

    Comment by Chris Altieri — 26 November 2008 @ 6:50 am
  17. So do priests, as one wise in the ways of Canon Law reminds me.

    Comment by Chris Altieri — 26 November 2008 @ 6:54 am
  18. You don’t need to confess face to face when you make an appointment. The priests at our parish just tell us that they will be in the box at the appointment time.
    The only snag with that is that, sometimes, someone else in church will see the green light on and pop in before you arrive….

    Comment by Marie — 26 November 2008 @ 7:25 am


Father Robert Altier has some more good thoughts on Confession and an excellent Examination of Conscience HERE.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pius XII was warned by Cardinal Tisserant that Hitler would exterminate Catholics

By Msgr. Pedro Lopez-Gallo
For five years after his death Pope Pius XII was reputed to be one of the most intelligent Popes in the history of the Church. His career as a Holy See diplomat and his command of several languages were appreciated by everyone, and his encyclicals, which included Mystici Corporis Christi (1943), and Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), were admired and studied in all Catholic universities.

He had been responsible for 33 canonizations, perhaps the most spectacular of which was that of St. Pius X, since no Pope had been elevated to the altar since Pope St. Pius V, who died in 1572. Pius XII had also proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We, in Rome, always considered him a true saint.

Then, suddenly, scandal! Performances of Rolf Hochhuth's Der Stellvertreter (The Vicar) were staged simultaneously in 1963 in Berlin, London, New York, and Paris. A real contrived conspiracy! The play condemned the Pope as a criminal for his silence about Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews.

Interestingly the year 1963 was also the year John Kennedy was assassinated, the year of the invention of the birth control pill and the birth of the sickness that became sex, drugs, rock 'n roll and the turning of the baby boomers into 18 year old adults. It was also the first full year of the Second Vatican Council, first convened in October of 1962.

In substance, here is the narrative [of The Deputy]: a Jesuit, Father Fontana, comes to know, through an SS officer of the Reich, that Hitler has decided to slaughter the Jews. Father Fontana goes to Rome to urge the Pope to reveal Hitler's intention to the world. Pope Pius XII refuses. Frustrated, Father Fontana pins on his cassock the yellow star, the symbol that all Jews were obliged to wear, and he is deported to Auschwitz to be gassed.

Very concerned, I questioned my mentor, Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, about this huge scandal. I was serving as his secretary at that time. The following is a summary of the notes I have kept. The cardinal told me that he himself had advised the Pope not to intervene: "Your Holiness, you have already worked so hard to edit the encyclical of your predecessor, Pope Pius XI, Mit brennender Sorge (With burning concern), which spoke out against Germany's National Socialism and Racism and which was read from all German Catholic pulpits on Palm Sunday, 1937, two years before the outbreak of the war.

"Hitler was already preparing to attack Poland, but the encyclical did not stop his apocalyptic madness then. We are now at war and his reaction now will be disastrous. Hitler has no respect for Your Holiness and you cannot stop him. On the contrary, you will move him to exterminate Catholics as well. If you ask the advice of the German bishops, I am sure they will implore you to stay away."

Only one or two of his advisers urged the Pope to denounce Hitler's intention.

The cardinal continued, "I also repeated this same advice some years later, when President Roosevelt of the U.S., through his personal representative, Myron Taylor, informed the Pope of the extermination of the Jews. I advised the Holy Father to tell President Roosevelt that he was in a better position to negotiate with such a dictator, as the commander-in-chief of the American forces would have more impact than the Vatican, which has, literally, no army."

Cardinal Tisserant, who was well-versed in 13 languages and familiar with oriental religions, drew several parallels between Hitler and fanatical Muslims who felt directed to dominate the world by violence, destruction, and jihads (holy wars), especially against Christians and Jews.

For instance, Muslim tradition says that Muhammad's wife, Khadidja, played an influential role in his religious teachings. When the Muslim Prophet retreated to an isolated mountain to meditate, she accompanied him and encouraged him to "hear the voice of Allah" who wanted him to be his prophet and put down his guidelines for world dominance in the Koran.

Hitler, while writing Mein Kampf in prison, was advised by Rudolf Hess, who was born in Egypt and schooled in the principles of intolerance preached in Islamic warfare. In his book Hitler exalts the superiority of the Aryan race that must conquer the world by Teutonic strength. "So acted the Arab sovereigns, and Hitler wanted to be a prophet for his people" (Rauschning, Hitler m'a dit, p. 272).

Cardinal Tisserant's views on the fanaticism of Hitler and Muhammad were published in the newspaper La Croix in January 1940. His warning now seems appropriate, considering the terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001; the jihad of Osama bin Laden; and the training of the Taliban.

Incidentally, the Arabic word Taliban is similar in meaning to our words sacristan and altar server; the movement indoctrinates young children that it is an honour to offer themselves for suicidal missions in religious wars. The destruction of countless innocent lives assures them entry into heaven!

Religious leaders can have some influence on secular leaders, provided they do not interfere with their plans. We know today how long and hard the Dalai Lama has struggled to obtain independence for Tibet.

China has answered by sending in armed cars and arresting the protesters. Beijing's brutality and torture has violated human rights even while attempting to create a better image of themselves in the eyes of the world by the Olympic Games. B.C. Catholic

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mankato Catholic conference draws 330+ young people

Tries to show young Catholics they're not alone

It’s not very cool, Mankato high schooler Bennett Coughlan says, to talk about his Catholic faith in public. Other teens agree that spirituality isn’t a topic to bring up around friends.

It’s enough to make a teen feel isolated from young people like them.

Showing young Catholics that they’re not alone is one reason the [Winona] Catholic diocese based in southern Minnesota decided to begin holding youth conferences every two years. This weekend marks the third gathering and the first in Mankato, with 377 youths and adults attending.

One of the church’s basic principles is that it’s a worldwide organization, so collaboration across parish lines is important, says Rose Hammes, spokeswoman for the Diocese, which includes Mankato and much of southern Minnesota.

“Service needs are everywhere, friends are everywhere,” she said.

That was evident Saturday afternoon, as hundreds of youth cheered loudly during a Bible skit and other kickoff events.

The conference theme is acts of service, with the six Corporal Acts of Mercy as a guide. In practice, it’s more like “a big Jesus party,” Hammes said.

Those six Acts — based on a passage from the Gospel of Matthew — are feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned and care for the sick. A seventh act, bury the dead, is somewhat more difficult to practice.

West High School student Erin Traxler said it feels good to do service work along with prayer.

“You know it’s actually really going to help someone,” she said.

Coughlan and other students designed the conference T-shirts, which depict the six Acts. They took photos to capture their silhouettes, then he edited them on a computer.

The conference planned to create 43 Thanksgiving dinners for area families and pack 6,000 meals at Kids Against Hunger.

Girls far outnumbered boys at the Holiday Inn conference.

Peter Bierer, a youth minister at St. John the Baptist Church, said getting boys to participate is “always a goal.”

They’re looking for sports figures, and other people who appeal to boys.

In addition to the emphasis on service, the conference had other pragmatic elements.

Heather Vargo, with the St. Paul-based financial nonprofit Catholic Aid, led a class on credit and money management. It was typical, except for the admonition to give between 5 percent and 10 percent of one’s income to charity. Some Catholics believe in tithing, giving a tenth of their income to the church.

This will likely be the final conference for Winona diocese Bishop Bernard Harrington, who is retiring and will be replaced by John Quinn on Dec. 11. Mankato Free Press

Liturgy 102: A Primer for Those Interested in the Extraordinary Form

St Agnes Parish is gearing up for their first Extraordinary Form Latin Mass, next Sunday, November 30, the First Sunday of Advent. Father John Ubel has written a two part primer on the old form of the Mass in the parish bulletin.

See "Liturgy 101: A Primer for Those Interested in the Extraordinary Form" Here

As we continue our preparations for the implementation of the Extraordinary Form (1962 Missale Romanum), I wanted to give you a few more examples of some of the similarities and differences between the two forms:

  • In the EF the idea of more congregational singing was being explored and implemented at varying degrees, including the Sanctus, Agnus Dei and others, as well as the Et cum spiritu tuo. One major difference is that currently we are used to singing the Pater Noster, but in the 1962 EF, the priest chants it alone until the final, sed libera nos a malo. This will represent a change.

  • Another change you will notice is the silent Canon. Generally, when the Chorale is in session, we make use of a silent Canon (Eucharistic Prayer), but the EF is always a silent Canon; the words of consecration will likely only be heard by those nearest the altar; the Nobis quoque peccatoribus will be heard by all.

  • The rubrics call for several levels of one‟s voice. Many of the priest's prayers are said silently or in a low voice. This is where the "side by side" English-Latin Missals or booklets can be helpful in following the Mass. The editions note where you may wish to join the server in various responses to the prayers, and when to sit, kneel or stand.

  • The Domine, non sum dignus is repeated three times instead of just once in the OF [Ordinary Form].

  • The communicants do not say “Amen” when receiving the host, and in 1962 there was not the option of receiving Holy Communion in the hand. The priest or deacon recites a longer formula for Communion than the current “Corpus Christi” of the OF.

  • The priest sings the Ite, Missa est (not the deacon) before the final Blessing. He then immediately goes to the Gospel side of the altar for the final Gospel from John 1:1-14. This “last Gospel” dates from the XVIIth century.
The liturgical Year is different in its nomenclature. This will present us some challenges, and quite frankly for the Ecclesia Dei Commission as well. For example, will there be a move towards picking one date for the Feast of Christ the King, for they differ in the two calendars? What about Epiphany Sunday (only on January 6th in the old calendar, etc.)? Time after Epiphany and Time after Pentecost are terms used in the EF that are rich in history and have been replaced by Weeks in Ordinary Time in the OF.

For a few weeks before Lent, there is a preparatory period in the EF in which the priest wears violet but yet it is not Lent. We will be switching out vestments and tabernacle veils in some cases between Masses! The vestments are the same, but with one addition in the EF. The priest wears a maniple, a small band of cloth worn around his left forearm, removed only during the homily. Originating in the 8th -9th century, it was used to wipe the brow of the priest on a hot day, it came to symbolize the sorrows, the „vale of tears‟ borne by the priest in his ministry.

Those are some of the key similarities and differences. The EF will be celebrated on the 1st, 3rd and (occasional) 5th Sunday of the month, while the OF will be celebrated on the 2nd and 4th Sundays. It may take some time to assimilate all the changes, but I am convinced that they will be fairly manageable for our people, and the riches of the Church‟s liturgical tradition will be readily manifest in its fullness.

Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. John L. Ubel
Pastor, Church of St. Agnes

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fr. Altier on Tap: Hastings, Green Mill Restaurant Nov 25

Father Robert Altier will be appearing at the Green Mill Restaurant in Hastings as a part of their "Ask the Priest" program. Tuesday, November 25, 7-9:00 p.m. 909 Vermillion Street (Hwy 61 near Hwy 55).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A pro-choice catholic wants us to use his conscience to make our decisions


An evil letter in the New York Times about primacy of conscience

This is a letter to the New York Times from the head of the dissident, pro-abortion group Catholics for Choice [formerly called "Catholics for a Free Choice" and its most well known leader has been Frances Kissling (1982-2007].

The USCCB has made the statement that "[CFC] is not a Catholic organization, does not speak for the Catholic Church, and in fact promotes positions contrary to the teaching of the Church as articulated by the Holy See and the NCCB."[23] It has been described by the Catholic League as an "anti-Catholic front group"[24

Father John Zuhlsdorf's emphases and comments.

November 22, 2008
The Catholic Conscience
[More and more we will see this word "conscience" misused by dissenters.]

To the Editor:

Re “Protests Over a Bush Rule to Protect Health Providers” (news article, Nov. 18), about the rule that prohibits anyone receiving federal funds from discriminating against providers who refuse to perform abortions for religious or moral reasons:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association may be behind the new rule, but their support does not reflect the fullness of Catholic teaching and the views of Catholics.
[Get that? The "fullness" of "Catholic" teaching. Now the writer will attempt to show how his position reflects the "fullness" of Catholic teaching, as if he somehow speaks magisterially.]

Catholic tradition requires Catholics to follow their own well-formed consciences
["well-formed"] even if it conflicts with church teaching. [Here is the problem: a "well-formed" conscience will not conflict with the Church’s teaching. A "well-formed" conscience adheres to the truth. I think the problem here rests in the difference between "well-formed" and "well-informed". There is a difference between having ingested a lot of information and then making a decision about it and, on the other hand, making a decision to adhere to the truth as taught by the Church. It seems to me that Catholics who desire that their consciences truly be "well-formed" give a logical priority to what the Church has to say, rather than reducing the Church’s teaching to one component, even an important one, among many necessary components.] As the Catechism notes, “a human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.” [Folks… get ready. Mark my words, we will hear more and more about this "primacy of conscience" argument as something that trumps the clear teachings of the Church. It will be used, by Catholics, as a justification for evil actions.]

Catholic teaching also requires respect for others’ consciences. Doctors and pharmacists cannot dismiss the conscience of the person seeking a medication or a procedure to which they themselves may object. For example, they may not ignore the needs of patients who may not be Catholic, or who have made conscience-based decisions to use contraception.
[So, this writer thinks that a Catholic physician with a "well-formed" conscience, recognizing the absolute primacy of the conscience of another, can then, in "good" conscience perform an abortion. What he has done is make another person’s conscience the touchstone of your own moral decisions. Another person’s conscience can "permit" you to do x, y, z.]

One hopes that the bishops are not suggesting that the only well-formed conscience is one that is in lockstep with their own interpretation of Catholic teaching. That would, in fact, be the antithesis of a well-formed conscience.
[The Church does not say that non-Catholics must give consent of mind and will to Catholic teaching. The Church says that Catholics must give that consent, and that their consciences of Catholics are well-formed when they embrace what the Catholic Church teaches.]

Jon O’Brien
President, Catholics for Choice
Washington, Nov. 18, 2008

What Jon O’Brien wrote was evil.

Let us drill into what he used as his foundation, namely, that "A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience."

This is the first sentence in the first article in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on "Erroneous Judgment"

Let’s have a look:


1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin." In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.
[This is why, above, I made a distinction between "well-formed" and " well-informed". Clearly, many people know lots of facts, but they make the wrong decisions anyway. Something is missing from their formation.]

1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others,
[here we have the problem of scandal. Many people see prominent "Catholics" acting in a certain way and they, on their example, follow suit. This is why Holy Church imposes censures on some people who commit public sins which give scandal. It is a way for the Church to say "What that person does is not Catholic and he is harming the unity of the Church and endangering souls.] enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, [Did you get that? "Assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience". The writer, above, does precisely that. As a matter of fact, he goes so far as to say that the autonomous conscience of another person can justify you doing what you, in your autonomous conscience, know is evil.] rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, [The Church does have authority to teach on this matter and she has taught.] lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

1793 If – on the contrary – the ignorance is invincible,
[that is, the person just can’t learn the truth] or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, [for example, he has been completely misinformed, as might be the case in a person brain-washed in a fundamentalist ideology] the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. [There is a distinction between the objectively sinful act and the guilt one has, as the subject who committed the act.] One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience. [This is a spiritual work of mercy, because it helps that person to edge back from the chasm of evil, the risk of committing scandal, and the ultimate peril of hell.]

1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith,
[true faith, I think, for Catholics is shaped by the Faith.] for charity proceeds at the same time "from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith."

The more a correct conscience prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by objective standards of moral conduct.

Just above this section we read in article

1785 In the formation of conscience the [1] Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the [2] Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the [3] gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the [4] witness or advice of others and guided by the [4] authoritative teaching of the Church.

Now go back and read that wicked letter in the NYT:

November 22, 2008
The Catholic Conscience

To the Editor:

Re “Protests Over a Bush Rule to Protect Health Providers” (news article, Nov. 18), about the rule that prohibits anyone receiving federal funds from discriminating against providers who refuse to perform abortions for religious or moral reasons:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association may be behind the new rule, but their support does not reflect the fullness of Catholic teaching and the views of Catholics.

Catholic tradition requires Catholics to follow their own well-formed consciences even if it conflicts with church teaching. As the Catechism notes, “a human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.”

Catholic teaching also requires respect for others’ consciences. Doctors and pharmacists cannot dismiss the conscience of the person seeking a medication or a procedure to which they themselves may object. For example, they may not ignore the needs of patients who may not be Catholic, or who have made conscience-based decisions to use contraception.

One hopes that the bishops are not suggesting that the only well-formed conscience is one that is in lockstep with their own interpretation of Catholic teaching. That would, in fact, be the antithesis of a well-formed conscience.

Jon O’Brien
President, Catholics for Choice
Washington, Nov. 18, 2008

More and more we will see some Catholics base their claims on the "primacy of conscience". Be on guard for their errors.

Australian Bishop: Confirmation has become a "Sacrament of Farewell"

The Bishop of Bunbury, Australia, Bishop Gerard Holohan, called for a radical reconsideration of the age and practice of the Sacrament of Confirmation at a meeting with the school principals of the Bunbury Diocese. He said that "in every practical sense, Confirmation had become a ‘Sacrament of Farewell'".

The Bishop contrasted the gap between the practice of today and the pastoral practice of the Early Church. Most Confirmation candidates today are the children of parents who have little if anything to do with the Christian community.

The Early Church conferred the Sacraments of Initiation on the children within families in which they were receiving, and would continue to receive, initiatory catechesis. The current practice of confirming children from families incapable of giving the necessary catechesis would not have been allowed in the Early Church. Sacraments were seen as sacraments of faith, and would not have been conferred outside a faith context.

The Bishop noted that today, instead of catechesis, we make do with religious education. Initiatory catechesis is an ‘apprenticeship in the faith', whereas religious education is an educational discipline offering an ‘understanding that leads towards faith'. Confusing the two, he said, is like confusing an electrical apprenticeship with the TAFE course required to qualify as an electrician.

One reason why the age for Confirmation has to be reconsidered is because of the move towards ‘Middle Schooling' in Western Australia. Another reason the Bishop cited is Pope Benedict's call for a review of pastoral approach to Confirmation in the light of whether it led into the 'community' where people ‘received formation' needed to appreciate the Eucharist as ‘the climax and summit' of the Christian life. He suggested that the current approach did the reverse.

Bishop Holohan concluded his remarks by saying a diocesan discussion is needed on the current approach to Confirmation. He suggested that among future possibilities was the one of "not completing Christian initiation until young people received adequate initiatory catechesis".

Practical implications of this approach included a new and focussed catechesis programme, a new level of parish and school collaboration, a catechesis strategy that draws in parents and even other family members so that families can offer catechesis and the raising of the Confirmation age.

The Bishop said the he wondered about the wisdom of reversing the order of First Holy Communion and Confirmation in the current pastoral situation. ‘There seems little sense in the Eucharist replacing Confirmation as the ‘Sacrament of Farewell'. CathNews

How to Read the Koran/Quran/Qur'an/Alcoran/Al-Qur'an


Reading the Quran can be a baffling experience. Unlike the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), the Quran is not a collection of books recounting the mythical history of a community of faith. It is not, like the Gospels, a pseudo-biographical sketch of a particular prophet in a particular time. It does not narrate the life of Mohammed, nor does it chronicle the rise of Islam (indeed, Mohammed is barely mentioned in it). Though the Quran is divided into 114 chapters (called suras), these are arranged neither thematically nor chronologically but rather from longest to shortest, the lone exception being the first and most important chapter, al-Fatiha, or "The Opening." The chapters are given evocative titles like "The Cow" or "The Feast," but these have almost nothing to do with the content that follows. The Quran itself states that its verses have multiple meanings, some of which are unfathomable to human beings and known only to God. And yet, in both style and content, the Quran is unique among scriptures.

The words of the Quran are thought to be infused with divine power. Muslims believe it to be the actual speech of God handed down through Mohammed between 610 and 632 CE. The physical book—its cover and pages—is considered sacred and is to be handled only in a state of purity. Its verses are inscribed on buildings and tombs in order to sanctify them. They are placed in lockets and worn as amulets to ward off evil. They are etched into cups so that when one drinks from them one consumes God's divine power. The mere act of writing out the words of the Quran—the art of Islamic calligraphy—has been elevated into the supreme artistic expression in the Muslim world

The inherent sacredness of the Quran has historically created an unusual problem for many Muslims. Since the end of the seventh century CE, when its verses were collected into a single, authoritative canon, the Quran has remained fixed in Arabic, the language in which it was originally revealed. It was believed that translating the Quran into any other language would violate the divine nature of the text. Translations were done, of course. But to this day, non-Arabic versions of the Quran are considered interpretations of the Quran. Unless the original Arabic verses are embedded on the page, it cannot technically be called a Quran.

The consequences of this belief are obvious. For much of the last 14 centuries, some 90 percent of the world's Muslims for whom Arabic is not a primary language had to depend on Islam's clergy—all of them men, as women are not allowed to enter the clergy—to define the meaning and message of the Quran for them, much as pre-Reformation Christians had to rely on priests to read them the Bible, which at the time was available only in Latin. That is now changing. Over the last century, the Quran has been translated into more languages than in the previous 14 centuries combined. A great many of these translations have been done not by Muslim clergy but by scholars and academics, by Muslim laity and non-Muslims, and, perhaps most significantly, by women. (The first English translation of the Quran by an American woman, Laleh Bakhtiar, was published in 2007.)

Arabic is a language whose words can have multiple, sometimes contradictory, meanings, so how one chooses to render a particular word from Arabic to English has a lot to do with one's biases or prejudice. Take the following example from Sura 4:34, which has long been interpreted as allowing husbands to beat their wives: "As for those women who might rebel against you, admonish them, abandon them in their beds, and strike them (adribuhunna)." The problem, as a number of female Quranic scholars have noted, is that adribuhunna can also mean "turn away from them." It can even mean "have sexual intercourse with them." Obviously, which definition the translator chooses will be colored by whatever his or her preconceived notions are about a husband's authority. The new crop of Quran translators are brushing aside centuries of traditionalist, male-dominated, and often misogynistic clerical interpretations in favor of a more contemporary, more individualized, and often more gender-friendly approach to the Quran. In the process, they are not only reshaping the way Islam's holy book is read; they are reinterpreting the way Islam itself is being understood in the modern world.

The latest entry into this cornucopia of Quran translations comes from eminent professor of Islamic history Tarif Khalidi, who is currently at the American University of Beirut. Written in what Khalidi calls "measured modern English," his is an eloquent and eminently readable translation, but one that does not stray too far from other conventional English versions of the Quran. (Khalidi, like the majority of his male predecessors, renders the word adribuhunna as "beat them.") However, Khalidi's Quran is unique in that it is divided not into individual verses, as is the case with all other Qurans, no matter their language, but rather into clusters of three, four, or five verses at a time. In other words, he bundles the individual verses into lengthy paragraphs that are rendered in both prose and poetry. This may perturb those trying to pinpoint a particular verse (Khalidi does provide occasional verse markers on the margins of each page to let readers know where they are in the text), but the overall effect is that Khalidi's Quran probably reads much closer to the way the first Muslims originally experienced the Quran.

The Quran literally means the recitation, an indication that this was a text meant to be heard, not read. That may explain why the Quran was never written down in Mohammed's lifetime. Instead, the revelations were diligently memorized by a class of religious scholars called the Qurra (or "Quran readers"), who then disseminated God's words to the rest of the Muslim community in short, easy-to-remember bursts of prophecy. A few of the most important revelations—those dealing with legal or economic matters—were preserved on bits of bone or scraps of leather. But the bulk of the Quran was not collected into a single volume until about 50 years after Mohammed's death. Only then was the revelation divided into individual verses.

This made it extremely difficult to place the Quran's verses, which had been revealed to Mohammed over a 22-year span, into historical context, much less chronological order. And so the compilers of the Quran did not bother doing either. Instead, they gathered up all of the revelations and recorded them in what can be described only as random order. This was a deliberate choice on their part. Muslims perceive the Quran as God's dramatic monologue, recorded without a human filter. (According to traditional Islamic theology, the Prophet Mohammed was merely a passive conduit through which the words of God flowed.) For the compilers of the Quran to have provided any explanation or commentary to the text, for them to have organized the verses in any deliberate way—whether chronologically or thematically—would have, in their minds, interfered with the direct revelation of God. As a consequence, those who are unfamiliar with the early history of Islam, or who may not recognize the historical allusions or contextual references that assist scholars in their exegesis, can feel rudderless trying to navigate through this challenging book.

In the introduction to his Quran, Khalidi admits that "the very allusiveness of the text, its impersonality, its meta-historical tone, seem almost deliberately to de-emphasize context." But he also seems to imply that it is natural to be confused by what we read. It is through the attempt to make sense of our confusions, to work through them with reason and with faith, that the Quran's dramatic monologue transforms into an eternal dialogue between humanity and God. Indeed, of all the sacred texts of the world, Khalidi argues that the Quran is perhaps the one that most self-consciously invites the reader to engage with it, to challenge it, to ponder and to debate it. After all, as the Quran itself states, only God knows what it truly means. Slate

Why a Bishop "Would Consider It a Privilege to Die to End to Abortion"

Last week, at the annual fall assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, [St. Louis'] archdiocesan administrator Bishop Robert J. Hermann stated that for any bishop, it would be a "privilege to die tomorrow to bring about an end to abortion." His comments were picked up by media outlets across the country and have been touted in the blogosphere as a courageous statement in the defense of unborn human life.

St. Louis Review staff writer Jennifer Brinker recently met with Bishop Hermann for an interivew, in which he reflected on his statement and also answered several other questions relating to the issue of abortion, the bishops' meeting and the recent presidential election.

Q: Let's delve right into the issue at hand. At the recent bishops' meeting in Baltimore, you said this:

"We have lost 50 times as many children in the last 35 years as we have lost soldiers in all the wars since the Revolution. I think any bishop here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow to bring about an end to abortion. If we are willing to die tomorrow, then we should be willing to, until the end of our lives, to take all kinds of criticism for opposing this horrible infanticide."

Could you explain a little bit more about the point you were trying to get across?

A: I think that the way abortion has been presented over the past 35 years so often is that this is something that's horrible, and we need to stop it. But it seems to me that people do not realize that it is 50 million children that we have killed. We have campaigned to save the baby whales, and yet we vote in pro-abortion politicians - which doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

I feel we need to be in an awareness-raising campaign to open our eyes to really see the destruction that we've brought about. There should be 50 more million Americans in our midst, and anyone under 35 can look around and say, 'Where are they?' And, 'I'm very lucky to be alive.'

We are grateful for all the soldiers who have died to defend our freedom. But at the same time, we aren't making similar efforts to protect the unborn. And so that's my concern - to raise the consciousness of all people to the atrocities that we're committing.

Q: What was the reaction of your fellow bishops after you said this?

A: The reaction was one or two bishops started clapping, but then we moved on immediately (to other business). I received numerous comments from other bishops, thanking me for making this courageous statement. I said any bishop there could have and probably would have made the same statement.

After I had finished, Bishop (Robert) Finn and Archbishop (Joseph) Naumann and Bishop (Michael) Sheridan commented. Archbishop (Charles) Chaput sought me out and commented. So numerous bishops had come up to me and thanked me for the comment. I said we're only doing what we're supposed to be doing, that's all.

Q: What was the thought process going through your mind in which you said, 'Yes, I would do this. I would lay my life on the line.'

A: Very simply: If American youth are willing to go to war and lay their life down to defend our freedoms, then every bishop should be willing to give up his life, if it meant putting an end to abortion. And if we're willing to do that, then we should be totally fearless of promoting this cause without being concerned about political correctness, without trying to build coalitions with pro-choice people. . . .

Q: During his campaign in Pennsylvania, President-elect Barack Obama said he has taught his daughters with proper morals, on the other hand, "if they make a mistake, I won't want them punished with a baby."

What do you think about that statement?

A: I am very horrified that he would make such a statement, which in effect is saying that he would be willing to see his grandchild killed for the convenience of his daughter.

When he promotes abortion, he is, whether he knows it or not, targeting blacks, because they have been targeted by Planned Parenthood with abortion information and facilities in their neighborhoods. So he and Planned Parenthood together are helping to reduce the African- American population in this country. . . . St Louis Review

Same sex marriage and its threat to religious liberty


. . . .The editor of a new book, Same Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts, summarizes the general issue this way: “All six contributors (to the book)—religious and secular, left, center and right—agree that same sex marriage is a threat to religious liberty.” The demand for same sex marriage brings in its wake a demand for identical treatment of same sex couples and opposite sex couples. Churches that resist this demand can have their tax exempt status challenged, can be investigated by “human rights commissions,” and can have parts of their operation shut down completely.

The Yes on Prop 8 campaign applied this argument in print and electronic ads. “Churches could lose their tax exempt status,” we said. “People could be sued for their personal beliefs.” The opponents of Prop 8 replied by calling us liars. Their argument was, “No church will lose its tax exempt status for refusing to perform same sex weddings.”

Note the sleight of hand: we made a general statement that churches could lose their tax exempt status, as well as have other legal problems. The opponents of Prop 8 brought up the one issue -- refusing to perform weddings -- which they knew the court had specifically exempted from legal challenge. On this basis, they accused us of misleading the public.

I personally was asked many times whether pastors would be forced to bless same sex unions. I told people the pastors were probably safe for now, but that the trend was not encouraging. The most likely outcome, I consistently said, was that the zone of religious freedom would become steadily more constricted. We cited many cases to support this prediction.

Catholic Charities in Boston shut down its adoption agency, rather than comply with the anti-discrimination requirement for the placement of children. A Knights of Columbus chapter in Canada was sued when it refused to rent out its hall for a same sex wedding reception. A Christian marriage counselor lost her job when she referred a lesbian couple to another therapist, rather than counsel them herself. A Christian photographer was fined by a Human Rights Commission in New Mexico because she refused to take pictures at the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple.

The No on 8 forces claimed that the cases we brought up had nothing to do with marriage. Gays had used anti-discrimination law in these cases, not marriage law, to sue and otherwise harass churches and religious people. (In fact, marriage was an issue in some of the cases.) In effect the gay lobby argued: “We already have all the legal authority we need to do all sorts of Dreadful Things that You Don’t Like, so vote no on 8.”

Oddly enough, people of faith were not reassured by this message.

But refusal to take the religious liberty argument seriously was not the only way the No on 8 forces showed their hostility to religion. On the Sunday before the election, our opponents ran a truly despicable hate-filled ad against the Mormon church. The ad ran the day before the election, when it was almost impossible to respond to it.

Proposition 8 won the election. Over six million people voted for it for a whole variety of reasons. It is safe to say that the religious liberty argument played a significant role. People waved signs that said, “Proposition 8 = Religious Liberty” and “Proposition 8 = Freedom of Speech.” Even though no one could predict the exact form the legal harassment might take, many voters decided the risk to their own churches was unacceptable.

In the aftermath of the election, the No on Prop 8 forces have taken to the streets, attempting to de-legitimize the election. Their behavior toward religious people amply confirms our worst fears.

The gay lobby targeted the Mormon church. Thousands of protesters surrounded Mormon temples in Los Angeles and in Salt Lake City in an obvious attempt at intimidation. Protestors carry signs saying, “Mormon Scum,” a sentiment that would be widely condemned as bigoted if directed at anyone else. Envelopes with suspicious white powder arrived at the Mormon church in Utah and the Knights of Columbus headquarters in Connecticut.

People have called for the LDS church to lose its tax exempt status. An enterprising reporter found that the LDS spent a grand total of less than $3,000 in an in-kind contribution. The other “Mormon millions” were small contributions by thousands of individual members of the church. Gay activists are scouring the election law, looking for minor violations the church or its members might have made.

This attempt to enlist the government for intimidation actually illustrates the point that concerned us throughout the campaign. If you cross the gay lobby, they will use the legal system to go after you. By passing Prop 8, the voters declined to give the gay lobby any additional legal tools.

The authors of Same Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty were not exaggerating. The drive for same sex marriage really does clash with religious liberty. The nation-wide post-election outburst gives Yes on 8 voters all the evidence they need that they did the right thing.

Crookston, Fargo Bishops urge Obama to oppose abortion

The Catholic bishops in Crookston and Fargo returned this week from a national meeting of bishops in Baltimore ready to make clear to President-elect Barack Obama and their flocks that they oppose his support for abortion rights.

Obama is “one of the strongest supporters of legalized abortion, as well as the Freedom of Choice Act,” Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo wrote in a column in the diocesan newsletter.

The Democratic president-elect therefore “directly opposes the divine law of God concerning the dignity of each human life, and so he strongly disagrees with the position of the Catholic Church,” Aquila continued.