Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Prestige

My housemate the Philosopher rented the movie, along with 24 Hours in London, and offered to lend it to me (he was going to watch it tonight, but he ended up going out with his friends Paul W. and Bree). So... instead of working on chapter 3 (which may turn out to be chapter 4 if I split chapter 2 into two), I watched The Prestige this afternoon. It is hard to talk about the movie without giving too much away--it is about the rivalry between two magicians/illusionists. It does keep your attention, but I don't know if it is worth watching again, or a purchase. The ending does cast some light on the role of some of the characters in a tragedy that is shown early in the movie--it makes you wonder who did what, and how culpable they were. I'll leave it at that. I don't know what sort of other things one might pick up on a second viewing; in terms of multiple viewing value, The Prestige is like the movie that made director Christopher Nolan famous, Memento. My suspicion is that once you know the twist, it is hard to watch it a second time, and be entertained, unless you watch in order to appreciate the technical execution.

Father Cantalamessa on the Transfiguration

Father Cantalamessa on the Transfiguration

Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday's Readings

ROME, MARCH 2, 2007 ( Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from this Sunday's liturgy.

* * *

He went up the mountain to pray
Second Sunday of Lent
Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28b-36

Sunday's Gospel narrates the Transfiguration. In his Gospel Luke gives the reason why Jesus "went up the mountain" that day: He went up "to pray."

It was prayer that made his raiment white as snow and his countenance splendid like the sun. Following the program we announced in our commentary for last Sunday, we would like to take this episode as a point of departure for examining how prayer takes up Christ's whole life and what this prayer tells us about the profound identity of his person.

Someone has said: "Jesus is a Jewish man who does not regard himself as identical with God. Indeed, one does not pray to God if one is God." Leaving aside for a moment what Jesus thought about himself, this claim does not take account of an elementary truth: Jesus is also a man and it is as a man that he prays.

God, of course, could not have hunger or thirst either, or suffer, but Jesus hungers and thirsts and suffers because he is human.

On the contrary, it is precisely Jesus' prayer that allows us to consider the profound mystery of his person. It is a historically attested fact that in prayer Jesus turns to God calling him "Abba," that is, dear father, my father, papa. This way of addressing God, although not unknown before Jesus' time, is so characteristic of Jesus that we are obliged to see it as evidence of a singular relationship with the heavenly Father.

Let us listen to this prayer of Jesus reported by Matthew: "At that time Jesus said in reply, 'I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to mere children. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him'" (Matthew 11:26-27).

Between Father and Son there is, as we see, total reciprocity, "a close, familiar relationship." In the parable of the murderous tenants of the vineyard this singular relationship of father and son that Jesus has with God again clearly emerges; it is a relationship different from all the others who are called "servants" (cf. Mark 12:1-10).

At this point, however, an objection is made: Why then did Jesus never openly give himself the title "Son of God" during his life, but instead always spoke of himself as the "Son of man"? The reason for this is the same as that for which Jesus never calls himself the Messiah, and when others call him this name he is reticent, or even forbids them to spread it around. Jesus acted in this way because those titles were understood by the people in a very precise way that did not correspond to the idea that Jesus had of his mission.

Many were called "Son of God": kings, prophets, great men. The Messiah was understood to be the one sent by God who would lead a military fight against Israel's enemies and rulers. It was in this direction that the demon tried to push Jesus in the desert.

His own disciples did not understand this and continued to dream of a destiny of glory and power. Jesus did not understand himself to be this type of Messiah: "I did not come to be served," he said, "but to serve." He did not come to take anyone's life away, but rather "to give his life in ransom for many."

Christ first had to suffer and die before it was understood what kind of Messiah he was. It is symptomatic that the only time that Jesus proclaims himself Messiah is when he finds himself in chains before the High Priest, about to be condemned to death, without any other possibility of equivocations. "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed God?" the High Priest asks him, and he answers: "I am!" (Mark 14:61ff).

All the titles and categories with which men, friends and enemies, try to saddle Jesus during his life appear narrow, insufficient. He is a teacher, "but not like other teachers," because he teaches with authority and in his own name. He is the son of David, but also David's Lord; he is greater than a prophet, greater than Jonah, greater than Solomon.

The question that the people posed, "Who on earth is he?" expresses well the sentiment that surrounded him like a mystery, something that could not be humanly explained.

The attempt of some scholars and critics to reduce Jesus to a normal Jew of his time, who would not have in fact said or done anything special, is in total contrast to the most certain historical data that we have of him. Such views can only be understood as guided by a prejudicial refusal to admit that something transcendent could appear in human history. These reductive approaches to Jesus cannot explain how such an ordinary being became -- as these same critics say -- "the man who changed the world."

Let us now go back to the episode of the Transfiguration to draw from it some practical teaching. Even the Transfiguration is a mystery "for us," it hits close to home.

In the second reading St. Paul says: "The Lord Jesus transfigured our miserable body, conforming it to his glorious body." Tabor is an open window on our future; it assures us that the opacity of our body will one day be transformed into light. But Tabor also tells us something about the present. It highlights what our body already is, beneath its miserable appearance: the temple of the Holy Spirit.

For the Bible the body is not an inessential element of human beings; it is an integral part. Man does not have a body, he is a body. The body was created directly by God, assumed by the Word in the incarnation and sanctified by the Spirit in baptism.

The man of the Bible is enchanted by the splendor of the human body: "You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me" (Psalm 139). The body is destined to share the same glory in eternity as the soul. "Body and soul: either they will be two hands joined in eternal adoration or two wrists bound together in eternal captivity" (Charles Péguy).

Christianity preaches the salvation of the body, not salvation from the body, as the Manichean and Gnostic religions did in antiquity and as some Eastern religions do today.

And what can we say to those who suffer? What can we say to those who witness the deformation of their own bodies or those of loved ones? The most consoling message of the Transfiguration is perhaps for them. "He will transfigure our miserable body, conforming it to his glorious body."

Bodies humiliated by sickness and death will be ransomed. Even Jesus will be disfigured in the passion, but will rise with a glorious body with which he will live for eternity and, faith tells us, with which he will meet us after death.

Pope Answers Seminarians

Pope Answers Seminarians (Part 1)
Pope Answers Seminarians (Part 2)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Kirill might accompany Putin to see Pope

Kirill might accompany Putin to see Pope, says Orthodox bishop
by Marta Allevato
In an interview with AsiaNews the Orthodox Bishop of Vienna and Austria, Hilarion, discusses the positive evolution of relations between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Vatican. He adds that having Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I in Ravenna together would be at odds with Orthodoxy’s hierarchy.

The interview itself:

Bishop Hilarion, on what topics is the Russian Orthodox Church interested in working with the Catholic Church?

First of all the Patriarchate is interested in developing a joint Christian witness to Europe and the world. We must come to understand that as far as mission is concerned we are not competitors but allies. And we should behave accordingly without proselytising against one another. By that I mean there should be no proselytising in predominantly Orthodox countries by Catholics and vice-versa.

As for the rest, there are historical disagreements between the two Churches on theological matters but in terms of social doctrine and morality we hold the same views. The Orthodox Church is very worried by secularism in Europe and in a wider sense in the West. We especially view the demographic decline we are experiencing as tragic. This phenomenon is rooted above all in a spiritual crisis, in the loss of the values of the Christian tradition. Saving the family has become a key point that unites us. The view that the family is out of fashion, outdated, has become a dominant idea. People today are more interested in free love and not in stable ties, in a family with children. In Russia the demographic decline has reached catastrophic levels, a million fewer people every year. The causes are many: abortions, contraceptives.

In Russia the state relies on the Church to address the country’s acute social ills. Unlike Europe, that is . . .

In Russia the Church is separate from the State, which does not mean there is no cooperation. One example for instance involves the problem of demographic decline on which we can and must work together, each with its own means. The state can increase transfers to families, adopt a wiser immigration policy, support children’s education. The Church can instead transmit moral values and in their right order. In this day and age one’s career, money, pleasure have become the priority; the family comes in last place. But the Church teaches that the first value is the soul’s salvation, followed by the family in which one can have children and raise them in the faith. I find it quite artificial that in some European countries politicians claim that the Church should not intervene in society’s problems, relegating it to the four walls of religious buildings, or considering it a hobby, a private thing. Christ did not create the Church for private use but with a missionary vocation and for this reason it must be present in society as well and have the possibility to influence social life—naturally without getting directly involved in any political battle or campaign.

You are here in Rome as a member of the Joint Theological Commission. What progress has there been so far?

Today’s meeting of the Joint Commission saw a small group of three Catholics and three Orthodox work on a text to bring to Ravenna this fall. The main topic was conciliarity and the role of the Council in the Universal Church. Discussing this we are moving onto the most delicate issue in our relations on a theological level, namely that of the Petrine Primacy. It is still difficult to foresee what the outcome of this discussion will be, but the fact that it started and continues ought to be seen as a positive sign.

You will be the top ranking representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ravenna where there is talk of a joint intervention by the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch.

It is true. There is a possibility that Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Benedict XVI might attend this event together. But I doubt the Pope will travel to Ravenna because it would cause more trouble than it is worth. The other members of the Commission are likely to feel under too much pressure with both present. Having Benedict and Bartholomew, not to mention the other patriarchs, would give the wrong impression that they are head of their Church. In fact, the Orthodox Church is structured differently from the Catholic Church. It consists of autocephalous Churches, each with its own primate and all equal. There is a certain order of importance but none is subordinate to any of the others. We respect Bartholomew I’s supremacy as Ecumenical Patriarch, coordinator of the various Churches, but he has no legal or administrative supremacy. If there is a meeting it must be seen as a meeting between the leader of the Church of Rome and that of Constantinople, not between the head of the Catholic Church and that of the Orthodox Church.

What sense can we give to the Russian President’s visit to the Vatican next March 13? Will there be official Orthodox representatives?

Vladimir Putin is on a state visit. The president will meet Benedict XVI as the head of the Vatican state. The presence of Metropolitan Kirill in the delegation that will accompany Putin in Italy cannot be excluded even though he is involved in a seminar at UNESCO. Usually during official visits by the president, especially if they have a religious component or touch upon the Church, there are always members of the Patriarchate. It is very likely it will be also be the case this time.

Isn’t the official rapprochement between the two Churches reflected in a greater dialogue at the local level between the laity and the religious from the two communities?

In Russia there is greater mutual understanding between the nuncio, Mgr Antonio Mennini, and the leadership of the Orthodox Church, between the bishop of the Mother of God Church, Mgr Kondrusiewicz, and the Orthodox authorities. On a daily basis relations are however difficult because Catholics missionaries and priests are still engaged in proselytising. We don’t need Orthodox to convert to Catholicism or vice-versa. We need to convert to Christianity those with no faith. We must develop a strategy to reach this goal together without harming one another. I think that at the official level, that of the leaders, progress in relations are most visible, but at the base it is not the same thing and this often creates problems. The faithful do not understand our overture to Catholics. The Orthodox Church has a duty to explain the reasons behind the dialogue. And Catholics must show their good intentions. What we need is greater knowledge beyond any prejudices. In Russia ecumenical meetings are being organised, not only with Catholics but also with other religions. But we don’t need only an official ecumenism; we need something more concrete, based on facts and mutual respect. Only this way can we reach real rapprochement. But the journey is long.

Chinese gov't takes new approach to Church?

From Sandro Magister:
The Celestial Kingdom Wants More “Harmony,” and with the Church, Too

Killer Elite by Michael Smith

Is this for real? Does the Activity really exist? Apparently so...

Correction: GISA is NOT the same as ISA.
GISA Homepage

Intelligence Support Activity patch:

Rep. Bartlett: GAO report points to arrival of peak oil

source: EB
Published on 28 Feb 2007 by Platts. Archived on 1 Mar 2007.

US Congressman says GAO report points to arrival of peak oil

by Staff

A draft US Government Accountability Office report finds that, though it is difficult to assess whether the world has reached "peak oil," a large number of experts surveyed for the report believe the world may have reached the peak for conventional petroleum supplies, said Representative Roscoe Bartlett, Republican-Maryland.

Bartlett, who has raised concerns that the world has produced more oil than remains in reserves, ordered the report from GAO -- the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress -- and will release it within the next month.

He said the report authors did not get a fix on how much oil is left in the world because principal oil suppliers would offer no information about how much oil they have left.

"They have no reason to tell us and little reason to be truthful," Bartlett said, so it is "very difficult to determine a date specific" when the world will reach peak oil.

But he added that the GAO report found that "the largest number of [experts] believe that it has occurred, that conventional supplies have peaked."

See original article at Platts for the rest of the article.

Video Presentation by Julian Darley

"Relocalize Now!"

Mr. Darley is the founder of the Post Carbon Institute.

via EB

North and South

People over at Austen Blog have been raving over this adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel (online text) for a while, so I decided to look it up last night. Here is the BBC website. I don't think it has been ever shown on Masterpiece Theater, but it is available on DVD.

Photo Gallery
Daniela Denby-Ashe plays Margaret; Richard Armitage plays John Thorton (and the women over at Austen Blog paid a lot of attention to him, surprise surprise).

Richard Armitage (wiki)

The Gaskell Web

American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia

American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia

Table of Contents (pdf)

New Pantagruel
NOR article/interview with Bruce Frohnen
Right Reason post
Review by Daniel McCarthy for American Conservative
Review by Elihu Grant for the Claremont Institute

National Catholic Rural Conference

Its website. Under the patronage of Saints Isidore and Maria.

From the History:
Founded in 1923, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference has been a witness for hope in rural America for more than 80 years. Throughout these eight decades, the Rural Life Conference has lifted up and affirmed the rural way of life.

Over the years, the Catholic Rural Life Conference has clearly stood in favor and support of rural people, family farms and local businesses that promote sustainable community development.

CE entry for St. Isidore

Allan Carlson, Lessons from the New Agrarians

Allan Carlson summarizes his book The New Agrarian Mind (paper), and presents the lessons we can learn from the New Agrarians.

A review of his book.

The Natural Family Manifesto, which he co-authored.
The World Congress of Families, which is supported by the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society.

Donnie Kennedy running for President?

His website

I don't know anything about him; I only found out about him because of Conservative Times, which announced his plans to run.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Casting Possibilities for Trek XI

Movies IGN

Ain't that the truth?

From a review of Letters to Doubting Thomas: A Case for the Existence of God, by C. Stephen Layman

They both remind me of a story Howard Gardner, famous for his work on the different kinds of intelligence, told at a conference of educators I once attended. One day his daughter, frustrated to the point of tears, complained to him about the difficulty she was having understanding a college course she was taking in physics. Describing himself as the perfect father, he related how he listened patiently while she spoke, praised her industriousness, and tactfully suggested that she discuss the matter with her physics teacher. His daughter said, “You don't get it, Dad. I get hundreds on all my tests.”

His point was that students succeed by repeating on tests exactly what the teacher said in the classroom, regardless of whether or not they understand what they were taught. The more successful students become professors themselves and pass on their so-called knowledge to succeeding generations.

Howard Gardner's official page; Project Zero page
Human Intelligence
An interview
The 7 Types
Intelligence in 7 Steps

Interview with Philip Groening

via Godspy

The Revealer first talks about the background behind the film, then of the film itself. It also includes an interview of the filmmaker, Philip Groening, by Angela Zito:


AZ: The monks refused you permission to shoot this film, then later granted it--What did that 16 year time-lag mean for the film?

PG: I wanted to go into a silent monastery, re-centering and a re-encountering my Catholic background ,which I was fighting. I thought I might see something of the pure center of that religion instead of the very pragmatic and very social version in the everyday church. By the time they called me in 99, I thought a lot of whether or not I still wanted to do it, whether it still fit into my life. I took out the outline again and it’s like five pages of a perfect concept. I thought OK, if it seems so perfect 15 years later, there is something to this.

But it was actually lucky—all the technical stuff I used to shoot the film did not exist in ‘84, so in ‘84 this film was basically impossible. I had been in a monastery in the south of France with a friend, one more luminous than the Grand Chartreuse, because it was much smaller and less constructed as a castle. We were thinking about shooting there on 16mm B&W but I doubt that we could have done it because there was just not enough light, and I certainly could not have done it alone .

AZ: Why?

PG: To go back to the basic concept: It was to go there, go through certain experiences, to have my perception, my senses, altered by what I encounter, use those altered senses, the altered sense of rhythm, of hearing, of seeing as a tool for creating something that really filters this altered perception into the audience, and opens up the space for them. So in order to do that you have to live there, for at least three months.

But they are hermits, hermits who live in a community. If you go there as two people, you are already a group. And if you have those moments of despair, those moments of really falling into the Nothing—which are usually the moments before you then suddenly find an image of extreme beauty—you would always find a reason to go to the other one and ask him if he also had problems. And you would just not pass through those things, get to the other side of them. You would not find those images of pure presence.

AZ: That sense of aloneness….

PG: It’s very important that they are actually alone and that you do not go in with a group of two or three outsiders. In a monk’s cell, nobody goes. Only the prior and the master of novices. Nobody else—they don’t visit each other in the cells. That’s a very intimate room. Filming somebody in that intimate room when he prays, if you would be two it would already be totally impossible—such an intrusion—it would be the classic destroying of what you want to film by setting up for filming it.


AZ: My own experience of viewing your film felt like you transformed time through repetition and juxtaposition of people and things. The moment when I wept in the film was towards the end when you took objects into the lens as portraits. You had shot the monks in silent close-up and then, suddenly, I realized that the fruit was being framed in the same way. I got the sense that the shooting must have been wonderful. But what about editing?

PG: Editing was a complete nightmare. I am still recovering. It was 2 ½ years, with no interruption, to find that structure—where the film transforms for you, and things happen, like you start to cry when you see certain objects. I knew I wanted to get there. But I’ve never seen a film that gets there. So there was no example to follow at all. Me and my advising editor—every time we applied rational rules…the film just totally fell apart.

AZ: Like what kinds of rules?

PG: Like why don’t we put the African monks coming into the order earlier? Or, when which caption appears. In a version just before the Venice Biennale, a caption explaining that the Carthusians are very strict, and that I applied in ’84, and that they answered in ‘99 . was put right at the beginning, and it just wiped out the film.

AZ: Why?

PG: Everybody knows it a documentary, and it’s about a monastery. Everybody knows in a documentary, usually you get information. If you give a little bit too much, add some little scene about what really happens when they take in a novice, you start setting up that desire—or even certainty— of the viewer. Once you give him that caption, the viewer says “OK this is a documentary; he’s playing a game now; its twenty minutes, there’s no new information, there’s going to be new information.” But there’s never any new “information”, and it just collapses. This was so incredibly difficult.

AZ: If you let audiences go down the track of “This is a documentary and I’m getting information” that’s it…?

PG: Then you’re lost, completely lost. Of course I shot lots of stuff about where they produce that liqueur—people always ask, Why didn’t you show that? But it’s so complicated how they produce it, you would either have to enter into language or unresolved puzzles, and this would give the liqueur extreme importance, something like a magical symbol.

AZ: They gave out the little bottles of Chartreuse at the advance screening in NY and I thought -- this is so perfect. This is how to introduce the liqueuer: not in the film, but bottled, so you can have a drink after the three-hour experience…

PG: The liquor is what they ‘re famous for, but for them it’s not so important. For the DVD I did an additional thing about the fabrication. It’s very funny, because I ask the monk in charge: What’s the significance of the liquor for you? And he thinks... “Uh, the significance of the liquor for us…? Hmmm well, it’s something that makes the money we need.” It’s not a magical thing.

AZ: What is most important to you about film as a medium?

PG: I always wanted to do this film because only cinema completely controls the time of the audience, no other medium can do that. It is the medium that comes closest to what religious rituals are. So I had the confidence even in 1984, although no camera in the world could have filmed at night then, that you can transform cinema into a monastery. Because all religion, by structuring time, can open up spaces in the viewer or in the participant. And this is exactly what you can do in a cinema. If you dare to do it, if you throw away all the additional construction and the supposedly helpful things like ”follow one person.” It’s not about following another person. Then you don’t think about yourself. It’s just a waste of time.

AZ: It’s information?

PG: It’s information. And getting information is not the same as encountering yourself. Nobody goes to a monastery to become a specialist in monasteries—you go to a monastery to become yourself. A film about a monastery that is really about a monastery is a film where you come out of the film and you know a little bit more about yourself but you know nothing about a monasteries because you have been in a monastery. If you want know about monasteries, go to a good historian.

From the point of view of what’s media and religion, this is where they are really joined. And this is why it’s really a cinema film. You need the confinement of the audience that they are not free to go in and out like all the time in an exhibition—you need the confinement of time and the darkness of space.

This is where the amazing parallels come in: cinema is like a monastery. It’s the only medium that discards everything apart from what is in the cinema and that really confines you—you go in there and the door is going to be closed behind you. Basically it should be locked by we don’t do that.


AZ: What did you learn through such a long filmmaking experience?

PG: I learned a couple of things: to have confidence as an artist, and as a human being, in what comes. This experience of living with these people, who are very free individuals because they are extremely themselves, and happy. They live in an absence of fear, not afraid of death, of things going wrong. They think everything is being taken care of –that is something that has stayed with me.

As an artist I came there and I thought: Well, what can I film? There were moments over and over again when I was totally desperate, thinking I can not go and shoot another thing in that cloister, one more monk ringing a bell. I just can’t bear it any more. I thought: I have to quit filming, because nothing is coming up, and then—and this is why it was so important to do it alone--- being not able to discuss that with anybody and sitting there in my cell, or wandering around the cloister, I would suddenly see something like the fruits on the table that would be of such an extreme beauty, I would think—OK here you are, stupid, thinking about where you can go to find a great image instead of just looking around. This is something that I hope will stay –we’ll see in the next film—this confidence that things are always already there.

I hope I gained confidence going through the editing. This was very scary, sort of being out there on the open sea for 2 ½ years with no rules to apply to anything. The only one who was an influence on that were Mark Rothko’s paintings because I met those paintings as though they were persons two-thirds of the way through the editing –and it changed the editing a lot—seeing someone trying to go to something very absolute and actually he’s managing to do it, he’s not failing. OK he falls apart later on, kills himself. But first he’s managed to do that. He touched the absolute by getting rid of all the safe constructions that could have helped him to know what he was doing. He must have gone through hell not knowing because this is the only way he could do what he did.

And I had an accident on the shoot. I fell off a cliff wall, 18 feet down, vertically onto a patch of gravel, and I thought I was dead but I wasn’t. There were 40 seconds—I studied medicine and lying there, I had no pain, and I thought, OK 18 foot cliff, vertical fall, no pain. You broke your neck, you have 45 seconds and it’s going to go dark, another 50 seconds and it’s going to go silent. So I was looking up and thinking, everything is so beautiful. Then once it was clear that I could move, I started thinking about a broken cable on the camera. And then I had a total breakdown and started to cry, because I was so overwhelmed by having lived, and on the other hand, by how quickly I was willing to go back into efficiency. What are we really doing with this obsession with efficiency, what are we doing with our lives?

AZ: The well-trained mind…

PG: You barely survive and the first thing you do…. It’s the adrenalin that does it.

AZ: I see. Like when I am coming home and my mind is ahead of me, taking out my key and rehearsing exactly how it will fit into the lock… Trying to grasp and control the future.

PG: The amazing thing about being there, in the absence of speech your inner structuring of constantly turning to the future also disappears, and my capacity for planning has been drastically reduced. A monastery is about getting rid of speech. Speech is constantly implying this logical way of structuring time and thought. Silence throws you into the present, in the sense of not thinking about how you get your key out of your pocket.

The immediate object, the presence of immediate things, becomes much more luminous. It’s really like a consolation. The material world, the creation, helps you to be in the world, it’s as if God had created the world in order for us to feel at home. But that sort of future planning capacity really drops.

This is what the monastery is about; this is what I tried in the film.

I’m always really nervous when the moment comes when you just see this fruit on the table because I think sometimes it makes you really happy—it’s really a joyful experience—and then I know the film is working because there is no way you’re going to ask yourself, as an audience, what is the significance of these fruits, who do they belong to, where am I, which cell is this? You’re just looking at them. That’s when the monastery happens in the film because you’re just in the moment of perception. You’re just perceiving what is around you.

Basic happiness is just perception of what is around you. Without spoiling it. If you can do that, you’ve done It.


AZ: What about repetition for you as an artist?

PG: I think repetition is the absolute core of all art. I teach at a couple of film schools, like Cal Arts, at the Academy in Germany, I always say: you have the choice, the repetition is always there, what Hollywood cinema does, genre film, is export it. You have the classic action film opening shot, and you immediately know: this is a certain genre. And so the repetition is outside, in the other films you’ve already seen of the same genre. But if you don’t do the genre thing, then you need some repetition because it gives you as the viewer the rhythm. Repetition is the only element of style that is recurring need through all my films. The only way we have of perceiving time is through rhythm. We can’t perceive linear time. We can only perceive ripples of water, the swinging of leaves.

And repetition, on a personal level, is the deeper way of understanding. Learning something new every day is not getting you very far. Looking at the same thing again and again is actually the way of insight that contemplation goes toward. So this is why it’s in the film—the monks’ life is repetition.

It’s a different approach….you say to yourself, I’ll just look at a very limited field, and looking at that field over and over again will change me, and that field, and it will make me join with the world at a deeper level than looking at different things all the time. Which is maybe broadening your horizon, but lessening your touch.

AZ: I felt that very keenly in your film. Not so easy or so simple to convey, because the monastery itself is built upon repetition. How to restructure the repetition so that it is not just documentation of repetition, but maybe overlays two styles of repetition?

PG: Absolutely! There was a moment when we tried just simply to edit the film along how their day was structured, and then you fall flat, And it doesn’t open up.


AZ: What is your fondest wish for your audience?

PG: If the audience, while watching the film, get to know themselves, be put into possession of their own time. If in the viewer, personal things come up—questions or images that have nothing on the surface to do with the film, but that are things you would not usually dare to have come up because you need a structure to carry you to have them come up.

AZ: Did you get surprising responses?

PG: Many. People go and see it often. The mother in law of my exec producer went to see it 8 times. She’s a psycho-analyst. A person in Rome saw it twelve times. Then the reaction I was surprised by most, was that so many people come up to me or go on the website and express gratitude—it’s not that they say “This is a great film” they say “thank you for the time we had.’ And now in France, it seems like a phenomena of people going in and starting to pray in the cinema Maybe this is a misunderstanding… But on another level, I wanted the film to transform into a monastery and this is what happens.

AZ: It feels very Buddhist, but you are not Buddhist—do you have a meditation practice?

PG: Oh no. I’m Catholic. And it’s very deliberate that I did not do this film on Buddhist monasteries. This is where the collaboration with my friend Nico ended. When we could not get into the monastery he asked, why don’t we go to Tibet? I said I want to do this for myself, to find out why I am so anti-religious, having being brought up so strictly Catholic. I want to heal some wounds and go back and understand where I’ve come from. I cannot understand that by going into a Buddhist monastery. I was not a Buddhist child, and my audience did not have a Buddhist childhood either. There is a problem with all those beautiful films which are for us a sort of religious tourism. Nice, but it’s not really going very deep.

Just on a theoretical level there is a mistake in going from the background you come from to an entirely fresh background. The way you know that a religion is your religion is that you have problems with it. If you don’t have problems with it, it’s not your religion.

Dalrymple on addiction

at Mercatornet

The article introduces his book, Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy , then proceeds to a brief interview:

MercatorNet: Dr. Dalrymple, your most recent book has generated some controversy amongst those concerned with drug addiction. What prompted you to write it?

Dalrymple: I wrote the book because I thought I discerned an orthodoxy -- which was mistaken in its tenets -- being imposed by political action rather than by argument.

MercatorNet: You continually emphasise personal choice and freedom in your approach to this topic. Your severest criticisms are directed towards those who deny that these free choices exist for the heroin addict. Do you think this denial exists more broadly in society?

Dalrymple: The problem is that if you continually tell people that they are helpless, and actually reward them in some way for acting as if they were, then they will act helpless. This is very gratifying to the sense of power of the helpers, no doubt, but not much good for the people they purport to help. In my work, I would accept that people were victims of circumstances -- but I would rarely accept that they were just the victims of circumstances and nothing else. If they were the latter, there was nothing they could be expected to do about anything, which is a most miserable existential position to be in, and untrue into the bargain.

As Pascal said, let us try to think clearly, for such is the beginning of morality.

MercatorNet: Returning to the topic of drug use; what do you think leads people to take heroin?

Dalrymple: No doubt people take heroin for a variety of reasons. Their lives are unsatisfactory in some sense or another, and heroin is a means by which they can experience pleasurable sensations that seem, at least temporarily, to abate their dissatisfaction.

MercatorNet: Do you see a role for programs such as methadone treatment or 'medically supervised injecting rooms' in reversing someone's addiction? What about legislation?

Dalrymple: No. I don't see how encouraging people to take heroin can "reverse someone's addiction". Legalisation is a difficult question. What exactly is meant by it? Certain forms would not get rid of the black market. The nature of the supposedly controlled market would have to be worked out.

I can see the arguments on both sides. I don't think legalisation would have much effect upon crime, because I don't see crime as the consequence of addiction. The consumption of drugs tends to be related to their price and the ease of their availability. This is so with alcohol. However my book is not primarily about this question.

MercatorNet: Australian writer Luke Davies has written about addiction in his novel Candy. He recently said that you obviously haven't experienced heroin addiction and that in your book you are "talking out of your arse." What experience do you have in this field?

Dalrymple: I have dealt with hundreds, if not thousands of addicts in the general hospital and the prison in which I worked.

MercatorNet: Luke Davis describes you elsewhere as a "pompous tosser". What would you say to the charge that your arguments lack any note of compassion or that you fail to empathise with the circumstances of the heroin addict?

Dalrymple: Mr Davis's arguments are about as crude as his language. I don't need to have cancer of the bowel or cerebral malaria to know that they are serious diseases. This is not how the seriousness of conditions is assessed.

As to empathy, there is the prevalent sentimental idea that to be kind you have to accept people at their own account of themselves, even if, in fact, they are either lying or in a state of self-deception. It is precisely my point that (in many circumstances, not all) it is not kind to reinforce lies and self-deception, nor is it any kind of service to them. It is always much easier, in the short term, to accede to people's demands than to deny them, but it is not necessarily more compassionate to do so.
In fact, I describe the circumstances of the heroin addicts whom I saw in my practice, and freely admitted that, in most cases, they were terrible. But I deny that taking heroin is a constructive response to them, and I deny that they can be made better by medicine.

Michael Cooke reviews Battle for Spain

at Mercatornet

The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1938
By Antony Beevor Weidenfeld & Nicholson London 2006 ISBN 0-2978-4832-1 £25

A Brief History of Courtship and Dating in America, Part 1

A Brief History of Courtship and Dating in America, Part 1

by The Rev'd Skip Burzumato

Wandering Toward the Altar: The Decline of American Courtship

John Thomas, Does God Bring People Together

FEB 26, 2007

Jesus gives us some guidance in this area, at least in terms of our trusting that God is watching over us with perfect care, a billion times more than the best parent ever could, with love so strong that we cannot even comprehend, and with nothing in mind for us but our eternal good and His glory and pleasure. It's worth quoting the whole thing:

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sew nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is today alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious saying, 'What shall we eat,' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." (Matthew 6:25-33)

Jesus doesn't include anxiety over whom we will marry, but we get the point: God has it under control — from every atom to every universe — He made it; He knows it; and His love for it is steadfast and greater even than life itself, and having a revelation of that dissolves the anxiety.

If I understand this right, Jesus is saying that if we will focus primarily on walking with Him — concentrating on taking the steps that He is taking — then He will take us where all that He has for us on this earth, is.

In practical terms I see it like this: I follow Christ by growing in intimacy with Him. As I abide in Him, I learn to walk in rhythm with Him. I do not worry about where we are going, but rather trust His leadership, because I am convinced, as I said above, that where He takes me will be for my eternal good and for His glory and pleasure.

He leads me to jobs, ministry opportunities, educational opportunities, relationships, a spouse, or whatever else it is He has planned for me. My primary focus never leaves Him as He brings these things into my life. I understand them for what they are, gifts from His hand, or tools in His hand, or both — all designed for what? All together now, "My eternal good and His glory and pleasure!"

Is the name secularism really that helpful?

See, for example, the Pope's Address to his Aides in Latin America:

"growing influence of post-modern hedonistic secularism"

But isn't it the case that secularism is not a thought-out system of beliefs, but rather acting in accordance with what one takes to be the fundamental goods in one's life? The same could be same of secular humanism, though there can be a speculative part of secular humanism, consisting of arguments against the existence of God and such by committed atheists. Whom does the secularist or the secular humanist take to be the center and focus of one's life? Man, though ultimately himself. Are there secular humanists who worship an abstraction, such as humanity, or the collective, the human race? Perhaps. But when the Holy Father is talking about those who are entangled in secularism, the majority are simply those who have alienated themselves from God to one degree or another.

Should we not just call sin sin? Even if it would offend, would it not be the reality? If we call sin sin, we know what the solution is--grace and prayer and evangelization, not an attempt at "Natural Law" advocacy or mere political mobilization of the faithful (even if that is necessary for them in order to exercise their citizenship and concern for the common good responsibly).

I don't think the Church Fathers and the heroic bishops of the Church shrank from calling sin sin or vice vice. They at least knew where the remedy lay, and preached Him, our Lord Jesus Christ.

James Hitchcock, What is Secular Humanism

Is the investigation of history useless?

Or is it worthwhile, but not to the degree that one might think?

There are limitations to what we can do in writing history; a complete history can never be written--that kind of knowledge is possible only with God. Human history, because of the limitations of the human mind (both on the part of the historian and on the part of the reader), must focus on the important people and ignore the contributions of those who are less important.

I can't go into the rise of history as an academic discipline, but I will say something of the attempt to make it "scientific" in the 19th century, from an Aristotelian point of view. (To be investigated--what was the sort of ideology [or philosophy] supporting this push to transform history into a science? What sort of epistemology supports the attempt to turn history into a science?)

The certitude characteristic of scientia or episteme can not be attained by history, since first of all history deals with contingent events that could have been otherwise. Moreover, for the most part one reasons from secondary evidence, and not from sense observation. (And even if one reasons from direct sense observation, the inference of causes can only go so far--while one may be sure that someone acted as the agent cause, one cannot be sure of his motive, even if he reports those motives directly to him. One can have some measure of probability, if the agent is trustworthy, but since one cannot "read his soul" by his natural powers, one cannot be certain of the truth.)

The desire to write a perfect or complete history easily lends itself to reductionism, the attempt to answer the whys? of history with one form of determinism or another. If men are nothing more than animals, acting from self-interest or a set of "basic instincts," it is much easier to explain human action than when one recognizes that man has free choice. Of course, such a truncated history cannot but be unsatisfactory since it excludes so much from its analysis and the causes it gives are insufficient to explain what has happened.

(What is the attraction of biographies, besides the admiration or fascination we may have with some hero or villain? Those who have political power or influence in a society?)

Sima Qian

Sima Guang

Confucians and the Chinese literati held that history's purpose was didactic. Using history as an instrument of teaching morality is made easier if it is coupled to a view that history proceeds in cycles that repeat themselves. Even without this cyclic view, though, one could look for signs of decay that marked the decline of a dynasty and led ultimately to its fall. By knowing these signs, one could work against them in order to prop up the dynasty and preserve the empire. What do the exemplars of good rulers, beginning with the first sage-kings, teach us? And what of the tyrants and weak emperors? For the Confucians, history is an instrument of teaching morality, useful for illustrate general principles. (Assuming that one understands the historical data properly, which in itself can be difficult.)

Should we judge only by the agents' own criterion for success and failure? Qin Shi Huang Di, in his own mind, was a success, unifying the states to create Imperial China. I think the human heart yearns for more, some sort of moral direction--something that tells them what the meaning of life is, and what examples they should follow.

It is easy for one fall into a consequentialist mindset, and be so concerned only with writing about the consequences about people's actions--any sort of moral judgment must be left behind and the historian must be neutral. Perhaps the neutral historian would at least concede that it is not his role to make moral judgments, but for the teachers who are employing his texts to do so for the students.

One the other hand, if one writes history in this way, is it not potentially misleading? That actions should be judged good and bad solely by their consequences, and make our own choices accordingly? But if one applies traditional standards of morality when writing history, is one in danger of making judgments about people? It is clear that one be careful and not destroy the reputation of even the dead--and that a tenative judgment requires the exercise of caution as one sifts through the evidence. But if the evidence is plenty, as it is with say, Hitler, should the historian be prevented from describing his character as unjust? I've never seen that characterization be made--it is left to the reader to infer.

Those who would employ history to teach morality are not in the danger of falling into another version of the naturalistic fallacy, of blurring the so-called "is/ought" distinction. Otherwise anyone who looks to exemplars for behavior would be commiting this fallacy. But they are not, because they already have some understanding of what good behavior is, as God has planted the seeds of the Natural Law in all.

It is one thing to lay out the facts, another to evaluate and judge, which necessarily brings in the normative--the natural law and the moral sciences. But in looking for causes, must not one understand the effects first? For example, in addressing the question of how a society loses one politeia/constitution and acquires another, or what leads to regime change--one may not be able to assess the character and motivation of those involved, but one can at least record their actions. Maybe only those who have been given prophetic insight and knowledge from above can judge the characters of others--the rest of us must be content with speculation and choose our words accordingly.

When we look at the Roman Empire, or at China or any other great civilization, seeking to understand their decline and end, are we not looking for the causes so as to prevent our own communities from being destroyed from within?

Perhaps history is not as important to the statesman as virtue, moral science, and knowledge of the present and of the people and their traditions. Nonetheless, doesn't history help to illuminate those traditions and help us better understand them? (Even so, it is still necessary to show how those traditions embody the Natural Law.) Here one should make a distinction between the "formal" study of history as an academic discipline and the hearing of stories about one's forefathers, their achievements, and what they have handed down to us. The latter seem necessary in order to maintain a political identity, to sustain a polity and way of life.

How much of the formal intellectual preparation is necessary for individual Christians? As is the case with philosophers, perhaps not so much. When we talk of encounter and dialogue within a Christian context, we are speaking of a genuine desire to know about the other, so as to cultivate friendship, not to exploit or manipulate. It seems that Christian missionaries who were "successful" integrated themselves into the native culture as much as possible, avoiding only those things that were deemed contrary to the commandments. (Is that not what St. Paul himself teaches in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23?) Those who are engaged in apologetics may need to know other belief systems and religions in greater detail, but all Christians must exercise charity and understanding when dealing with others, praying for wisdom as they learn about the culture of others. This is part of the vocation of every Christian, not just of those who happened to be part of a certain lay group or movement.

As my mother says, showing by example can accomplish much in bringing others to God.

Cardinal Ratzinger on relativism (pdf)
Homily from the Mass Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice

How the Fed Lost Control of Money Supply

How the Fed Lost Control of Money Supply
Axel Merk

Ennio Morricone

His official website. One of the great composers of film music? I don't know where he ranks on Pete Takeshi's list.

Ennio Morricone: Film music - Absolute music

Gabriel's Oboe

Ennio Morricone conducts The Mission (Arena di Verona)

The Ecstasy of Gold -- Live in Concert

Ennio Morricone - Il était une fois dans l'Ouest (Concert)

Ennio Morricone - 1900 Novecento live in concert Munich

Ennio Morricone - The Untouchables Concert Munich

Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso Theme (Concert in Munich)

Malena video

with Yo Yo Ma

Hans Zimmer talks about Ennio Morricone

more youtube clips

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Interview with Archbishop Chaput on immigration

Immigration Schizophrenia

Interview With Archbishop Chaput of Denver

DENVER, Colorado, FEB. 28, 2007 ( A get-tough attitude is not enough to stay the growing influx of undocumented workers in the United States, according to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.

The archbishop has witnessed the large growth of the Latino population in his see and insists that for an immigration policy to work, it must address the root, economic issues.

In this interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Chaput discusses the immigration situation in the United States, which he says Americans live "with a curious kind of schizophrenia."

Q: You have recently criticized the raid of undocumented workers that took place in three meatpacking plants in the Midwest in December, saying that these "dramatic, get-tough arrests" will not solve the immigration problem. Why not?

Archbishop Chaput: The U.S. immigration problem is systemic. Attacking the symptoms -- in this case, undocumented workers in a meatpacking plant -- does nothing to address the root cause, which is economic.

Some 40 million abortions and billions of contraceptives later, Americans have a work-force shortfall. Why is anyone surprised?

We want a strong economy and a good standard of living, but we also don't want to do a lot of the unpleasant jobs that help sustain that standard. So we live with a curious kind of schizophrenia. We need the "illegals," but we also want to complain about them.

Q: You also said that the immigration system in the United States has failed. In what sense? Are there any laws on the table with the new Congress that would effectively address these issues?

Archbishop Chaput: San Antonio's Archbishop José Gómez and others have pointed out that today's Latino immigrants are different in some important ways from the Irish, Italian and Polish immigrants of a century ago.

Many Latino immigrants neither want nor plan to settle here. They want to work for a while and then return home, and unlike previous generations of immigrants, they could actually do that if our system let them, because they don't need to cross an ocean.

The U.S. immigration machinery has no effective way of welcoming, licensing and tracking guest workers, and yet we need enormous numbers of them. I'd call that a failure.

As to the politics of the issue, I've been equally dissatisfied by both major political parties. Colorado's Democratic senator, Ken Salazar, and Arizona's Republican senator, John McCain, and others, have pushed some good legislation at the federal level, but overall, both the Democrats and the Republicans have played to the uglier qualities in America's mood when it comes to immigration issues.

Q: The United States gives out about 1 million "green cards" a year, yet more than 800,000 undocumented workers arrive illegally each year. Would it be fair to assume that part of the problem also lies with the economic and political situation in the immigrants' home countries? What responsibility should these countries assume for the large numbers of citizens leaving their borders?

Archbishop Chaput: That's an important point. Some people enjoy blaming the United States for nearly every problem, and, unfortunately, American policy has had a very mixed history in Latin America.

But until Latin American nations seriously reform their own legal and economic systems, they are co-responsible for the current crisis. Just pointing fingers at the United States isn't going to work. One of the implications of a hemispheric economy is that both sides of the border need to cooperate. Both sides of the border have duties.

Q: The federal government is insisting on the need to control immigration for security reasons. The Church, among others, has criticized some of the measures taken, such as the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, because of the human toll it takes. How can we reconcile the need for security with a more humane treatment for those trying to enter?

Archbishop Chaput: The Church is most effective when she reminds people that punitive force alone can't work. For me, the debate over the border wall is really a debate over blunt-edged solutions.

The border wall is an icon for all sorts of other American contradictions. For example, we're trying to fight a war in Iraq with an obviously inadequate manpower pool, but Americans have no intention of making the sacrifices that would enlarge that pool in an equitable way.

Have you heard anyone seriously calling for conscription or mandatory national service, or vastly increasing military pay to encourage volunteers? I haven't. In a similar way, we want to "get tough" at the border, but are we really willing to militarize American life and spend the money it would take to shut down the immigrant flow? And what if we were? Have we really thought through the consequences for our economy?

At the same time, candidly, I don't think all religious voices are equally helpful in the national debate. Accusing Americans of national racism, or prematurely threatening civil disobedience to immigration law, is unwise.

Sometimes common sense is more useful than "prophetic witness." The security concerns most Americans feel are very legitimate. Citizens have a right to be worried about disrespect for the law and the solvency of their public institutions.

If Americans are angry about the immigration issue, it's not because they're instinctively bigoted. They're frustrated and afraid, and too many of our public servants have failed us by not really leading with vision -- in other words, by following their polls and ambitions, instead of their brains and consciences, to find a solution.

Q: You have said that the immigration crisis is a "test of our humanity." What measures could the government take to get control over the increasing numbers of undocumented workers in the country, but at the same time demonstrate this sense of humanity?

Archbishop Chaput: I know of many Catholic and other members of the U.S. Border Patrol who do their job with extraordinary humanity. At the people-to-people level, Americans have always been among the most fair and generous in the world. We still are.

But the further away from practical human realities we get, the more inhumane our politics can become. It's not the job of the Church to draft immigration law. If it were, we wouldn't need Congress.

Of course, that wouldn't work either, because the Church doesn't have the particular skills needed for that kind of public service. Where the Church and other communities of faith do have skill is in explaining the moral issues that should help shape the law. So her voice on an issue like immigration is vital.

Q: What has been the impact of immigration in your diocese?

Archbishop Chaput: Colorado saw a 70% increase in Hispanic immigration from the late 1980s through the late 1990s. Immigration is huge in my diocese, and on the balance, it's been a tremendous infusion of new life into the Church.

In Denver, we want to build a Church community that it is truly multiethnic and multiracial. That strikes me as a demand of discipleship. But unless we get serious national immigration reform soon, a sense of grievance will continue to grow among both Hispanics and non-Hispanics. In the long run, that could gravely wound the whole country.

"Some 40 million abortions and billions of contraceptives later, Americans have a work-force shortfall. Why is anyone surprised?"

Is the lack of workers really the problem? Perhaps agribusiness cannot survive without guest workers, but shouldn't we be making a transition away from an economy where agribusiness dominates the production of food?

"We want a strong economy and a good standard of living, but we also don't want to do a lot of the unpleasant jobs that help sustain that standard. So we live with a curious kind of schizophrenia. We need the 'illegals,' but we also want to complain about them."

What we need is... a return to local, self-sufficient economies, which will make a lot of the menial jobs unnecessary.


I was looking for an explanation of Romanitas, and the first place I looked at was wiki, which gives the following:
Romanitas was not a word used in ancient times, but it is used by modern writers to express the ideals which inspired the Roman state. It meant a great many things, but in short it meant what it was to be Roman (that is, Roman-ness). The Roman ideal was the citizen/soldier/farmer. The farmer was a hard working, frugal, practical man who worked the land with his own hands. The soldier was a courageous, strong man who obeyed orders and risked his own life in the name of Rome. Prior to the formation, under Marius, of the standing Roman Army, Rome had a militia-type defence-force which could be called up in time of war and then disbanded during peacetime. The ideal of the citizen/soldier/farmer was Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. According to Roman legend, Cincinnatus was tending his farm when a messenger arrived, telling him that Rome was under attack and that he had been elected dictator. He was at first reluctant to go, but the Senate pleaded with him. He defeated the enemy tribe within a matter of weeks and, despite there remaining most of his six-month term as dictator with absolute power, returned to his farm.

The attainment and possession of the virtue of gravitas was highly valued by Romans of the early Republic and by Roman intellectuals. Indeed, gravitas was the single most clarifying characteristic of early republican Roman society:

“The Roman customs and principles regarding the acquisition of wealth are better than those of the Carthaginians. In the view of the latter nothing is disgraceful that makes for gain; with the former nothing is more disgraceful than to receive bribes and to make profit by improper means. For they regard wealth obtained from unlawful transactions to be as much a subject of reproach as a fair profit from reputable sources is of commendation. A proof of the fact is this: the Carthaginians obtain office by open bribery, but among the Romans the penalty is death.”³

The virtuous character of the Romans, their honesty and trustworthiness, is shown in the way they handled their finances. Polybius remarks: “Greek statesmen, if entrusted with a single talent, though protected by ten checking-clerks, as many seals and twice as many witnesses, yet cannot be induced to keep faith; whereas among the Romans, in their magistracies and embassies, men have the handling of a great amount of money, and yet from pure respect for their oath keep their faith intact.”³

Their cultural characteristics led to their development of "self government" by adopting a classical republic and thus this class formed the backbone of the Roman Republic.

Because of the widespread influence of Roman classical literature, the idea of the citizen/soldier/farmer also took root in colonial and early America.

I haven't seen citations from classical texts that confirm this ideal of the citizen/soldier/farmer; I do believe that the Founding Fathers, under the influence of neo-classicism, adopted it as their own. If this is the ideal of the Roman Republic (surely under the Roman Empire the ideal was slowly transformed?), then I would draw a contrast to the Confucian ideal, or the ideal of the literati class in Imperial China. More on this in another post, but for now I'll assert that the ideal of the Roman Republic is more suited to a polity than the Confucian ideal. Is it different from the Athenian ideal? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on whether the citizen of the Roman Republic owned slaves or at least had people working for him on the farm. Jefferson and Washington would be examples of "farmers" who were actually plantation-owners. In contrast, Wendell Berry conceives of the individual farmer (having only a small farm and family) who exercises citenzship as being the model.

The hero of the movie Gladiator, Maximus Decimus Meridius approximates the ideal, but doesn't quite embody it, in my opinion, since he is living during the Empire and is not interested in politics. He does own a farm with people working on it, though it is not clear if they are slaves or not.

Allen Ward reviews the inaccuracies of the movie.

I need to read a good history of the Roman Republic, one that describes the farms and the different social classes.

info for Rome at War Farms, Families, and Death in the Middle Republic by Nathan Rosenstein
(MUSE review)

Hrm, The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to Empire, by Lawrence Keppie
Roman Manliness: "Virtus" and the Roman Republic by Myles McDonnell (CUP, BMCR review)

D. R. Turner offers this definition of Romanitas:

One of the most complex and pervasive metanarratives in European history is that of Romanitas, the notion of belonging politically or emotionally (or both) to a universal order and culture associated in one way or another with the Roman Empire. In modern historical and archaeological jargon, the process by which Romanitas came to be significant to any particular cultural group is called Romanisation (Barrett 1997; Freeman 1993; Woolf 1992).
A review of Cultural Identity in the Roman Empire, which mentions Romanitas.

Romanitas was transferred into an ecclesiastical context, as the meaning seems to be conveyed here, in an article by Sandro Magister. Similarly, Fr. Schmidberger of the SSPX quotes Archbishop Lefebvre on the meaning of Romanitas, "the full text of which can be found here (at the section entitled "3. The providential choice of Rome as the Seat of Peter ..."). I will reproduce only one line:

This relentlessness against "Romanitas" is an infallible sign of rupture with the Catholic Faith that he no longer defends."

Or, see the explanation given in Catholic Peacemaking (pdf), an essay introducing Community of Sant'Egidio (USA site). This meaning is also noted by wiki.

It seems to be different from the usage by Malachi Martin in his book on the Jesuits, but it's been a while since I've read the book and I don't have it here to check. He seemed to be describing the curial style or the "diplomatic" ways of officials in the Roman Curia (CE).

Then there is the alternate-history novel of that name. (wiki) It is interesting that the only major power left, which can hardly compete with Rome, is Sina (China).

Check out the alternate timeline.

Youtube video: Sister Marie Keyrouz

a previous post with more info

NY Times review of Into Great Silence

Philip Gröning/VG Bild Kunst

NY Times review of Into Great Silence

via NLM

Natural Family Planning Method Is As Effective As The Contraceptive Pill

Via Global RPH

Natural Family Planning Method Is As Effective As The Contraceptive Pill

Researchers have found that a method of natural family planning that uses two indicators to identify the fertile phase in a woman's menstrual cycle is as effective as the contraceptive pill for avoiding unplanned pregnancies if used correctly, according to a report published online in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction. [1]

The symptothermal method (STM) is a form of natural family planning (NFP) that enables couples to identify accurately the time of the woman's fertile phase by measuring her temperature and observing cervical secretions. In the largest, prospective study of STM, the researchers found that if the couples then either abstained from sex or used a barrier method during the fertile period, the rate of unplanned pregnancies per year was 0.4% and 0.6% respectively. Out of all the 900 women who took part in the study, including those who had unprotected sex during their fertile period, 1.8 per 100 became unintentionally pregnant.

The lead author of the report, Petra Frank-Herrmann, assistant professor and managing director of the natural fertility section in the Department of Gynaecological Endocrinology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, said: "For a contraceptive method to be rated as highly efficient as the hormonal pill, there should be less than one pregnancy per 100 women per year when the method is used correctly. The pregnancy rate for women who used the STM method correctly in our study was 0.4%, which can be interpreted as one pregnancy occurring per 250 women per year. Therefore, we maintain that the effectiveness of STM is comparable to the effectiveness of modern contraceptive methods such as oral contraceptives, and is an effective and acceptable method of family planning."

A number of fertility awareness based (FAB) methods of family planning have been advocated over the years, but comparisons between different methods and studies of their effectiveness have been limited and hampered by problems such as differences in cultural backgrounds, different ways to measure the effectiveness of a FAB method, different ways of classifying unintended pregnancies and other methodological problems.

"To be able to make an informed choice when selecting a family planning method, couples need to know the efficacy of a method when used both perfectly and imperfectly," said Prof Frank-Herrmann. "We believe that this is a significant prospective cohort study that clearly defines STM and perfect and imperfect use, and which defines intended and unintended pregnancies, classifying them according to the couples' intentions before conception."

The researchers selected data from a cohort of 900 women who were part of a much larger study of 1,599 women using STM, which was conducted by the German Natural Family Planning study centre between 1985 and 2005. The 900 women provided data on 17,638 cycles to Prof Frank-Herrmann and her colleagues.

STM identifies the beginning and end of a woman's fertile period using two measurements (body temperature and cervical secretions) in order to have a double-check system. The first fertile day is when the woman first identifies either: 1) first appearance or change of appearance of cervical secretion, or 2) the sixth day of the cycle. After 12 cycles, this second guideline is replaced by a calculation that subtracts seven days from the earliest day to show a temperature rise in the preceding 12 cycles, in order to identify the first fertile day. The woman is then in her fertile period. The fertile phase ends after the woman has identified: 1) the evening of the third day after the cervical secretion peak day, and 2) the evening when the woman measures the third higher temperature reading, with all three being higher than the previous six readings and the last one being 0.2 degrees C higher than the previous six.

Prof Frank-Herrmann said: "The women or couples who want to learn the method have to buy a book, or attend an NFP course, or get some teaching by a qualified NFP teacher. Learning STM is usually no problem. There are precise rules that work. However, in contrast to the oral contraceptive pill or other family planning methods, STM needs more engagement and time to learn it."

Every month the women in the study sent charts to the researchers that showed their cycles, their observations of temperature and cervical secretions, and that recorded their sexual behaviour and family planning intentions for the next cycle.

Of the 900 women, 322 used only STM and 509 women used STM with occasional barriers during the fertile time. Sixty-nine women did not document their sexual behaviour. Out of the women who documented their sexual behaviour and abstained from sex during their fertile period ("perfect use") the unintended pregnancy rate was 0.4 per 100 women and 13 cycles [2], and 0.6 for women who used STM plus a barrier if they had sex during their fertile period. For cycles in which couples had unprotected sex during the fertile phase, the pregnancy rates rose to 7.5 per 100 women and 13 cycles. The drop-out rate from using STM for reasons such as dissatisfaction or difficulties with the method was 9.2 per 100 women and 13 cycles, and compared well with the drop-out rates from other methods of family planning, which can be as high as 30%, although direct comparisons are difficult due to methodological problems. "This demonstrates a fairly good acceptability for this particular FAB method," said Prof Frank-Herrmann.

The authors were surprised by the relatively low rate of unintended pregnancies (7.5%) among women who had unprotected sex during their fertile period. "If people are trying for pregnancy you expect a pregnancy rate of 28% per cycle," said Prof Frank-Herrmann. "Therefore, we think that some of the couples were practising conscious, intelligent risk-taking, and were having no unprotected sex during the few highly fertile days, but had unprotected intercourse on the days at the margins of the fertile time when the risk of pregnancy was lower."

Some studies have suggested that women's libido is higher during their fertile period, and this could be one of the reasons why NFP methods traditionally have had a reputation for being less effective than other methods of family planning. However, Prof Frank-Herrmann said: "There are studies that suggest that this is only the case for a small proportion of women, and that, in fact, women also identify other parts of their cycle with increased sexual desire. Most women who use FAB do not find this a problem. It's possible that the increased libido may be one of the reasons that some of the couples in our study used a barrier, such as a condom, in the fertile phase.

"This is the first time that a large, prospective STM database has been established with sufficient detailed information on sexual behaviour. It enables the true method effectiveness for STM to be calculated and we found this was 0.4% per year when there was no intercourse during the fertile phase. The user-effectiveness of STM, in other words the total number of unintended pregnancies that were due to both method and user failure, was 1.8% after 13 cycles of use, and this compares very well with results from other European studies of FAB methods of family planning. The markedly good user-effectiveness rate may be explained partly by the motivation of the couples and their teachers who agreed to participate in the study," she concluded.


[1] The effectiveness of a fertility awareness based method to avoid pregnancy in relation to a couple's sexual behaviour during the fertile time: a prospective longitudinal study. Human Reproduction. doi:10.1093/humrep/dem003. [2] This assumes a woman has 13 cycles in a year.

Contact: Emma Mason European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology