Saturday, January 24, 2009

FPJ: R. J. Stove, A Forgotten Virtuoso

If Hummel had managed nothing else, he would continue to warrant attention for his almost Mozartean precocity. Born in 1778, he had already become an exceptional pianist when just six years old, and a skilled violinist too (this secondary interest ended when he smashed his violin in ire during an inconclusive aesthetic discussion with a fellow juvenile). At the age of eight he not only began studying piano with Mozart in Vienna, but went to live with him, rent-free. No doubt today this residential arrangement would inspire charges of pedophilia, but such residences occurred quite often at the time—Mozart’s father had his own live-in pupils—with no hint of sexual relations. Hummel proceeded to arrange for chamber forces several of Mozart’s operas and orchestral works, as well as to reveal in his own pianism three Mozartean traits: a constant concern for the long, singing line (Mozart demanded that his keyboard music “flow like oil”), persistent textural clarity, and aversion to any but the most prudent use of the sustaining pedal. In short, everything epitomized in the term “classicist”: everything, also, antipathetic to the young Beethoven’s keyboard style, with its string-wrecking ebullience and pedal-heavy grandeur. Only in the field of improvisation did Hummel and Beethoven meet occasionally on shared ground, several competent judges regarding Hummel as the more gifted improviser of the two. Between both men there arose—and there survived until Beethoven’s death-bed—an improbable friendship, punctuated by occasional quarreling. Hummel seems to have been devoid of envy, while Beethoven (for all his tantrums) possessed sufficient natural generosity to accord his major rivals due respect.

Neglected by many professionals and unknown to most people today, Johann Nepomuk Hummel was one of the great classical composers, and one fo the last. I only discovered him (more than a decade ago) thanks to an article by Robert Reilly in Crisis.

larger photo of painting here

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (Scarecrow Press, Inc.)
Johann Nepomuk Hummel Classical Composers Database
Karadar entry
Naxos biography
Michael Haydn - Johann Nepomuk Hummel
HOASM: Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Johann Nepomuk Hummel ArkivMusic
Google Books: Sonatas, rondos, fantasies, and other works for solo piano and Piano concerto, opus 113
OUP: Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Hyperion Records Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Johann Nepomuk Hummel ArkivMusic

Robert Reilly, Is Music Sacred?
The Best Recordings of 2004
Boniface on Courtship & Dating (via Stony Creek Digest)

An interesting take...
Last year's post on St. Francis de Sales, for his feast day. Tea at Trianon on St. Francis de Sales. I thought I would link to some more pictures today:

Salesian spirituality

Introduction to the Devout Life
Treatise on the Love of God

Another picture of the same painting here, at Vultus Christi.

Crisis has gone completely online, iirc. Here is an article on St. Francis de Sales.

More links:
Salesian Spirituality: The Spiritual Tradition of Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal
Salesian Spirituality
Second Federation of the Visitation: Salesian Spirituality
Salesian Spirituality
Salesian Tradition
Salesian Spirituality
The De Sales Spirituality Center
DeSales Resources and Ministries, Inc. -- Home
Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology: Institute of Salesian Spirituality
Salesian Spirituality: The Choice in Choosing Jesus

Google Books: Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction

The Salesians of Don Bosco:
The Four Pillars of Salesian Spirituality (Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B.)
Salesian Spirituality
Foodie Food Storage, Sharon Astyk, Casaubon's Book (via EB)
Interview with James Howard Kunstler, Kurt Cagle, O'Reilly Broadcast (via EB)

(See also The Dystopians by Ben McGrath, New Yorker)

In the comments following the interview, Dean Terry mentions his movie, Subdivided: Isolation and Community in America:

Subdivided is a documentary film about life in contemporary suburbia: a personal study of isolation and the struggle to find and maintain community in an era of careless development, the uninspired design of the modern subdivision, urban sprawl, and the invasion of the McMansion. American life is more divisive than ever, and poorly designed neighborhoods further encourage isolation and separation. With no sense of place or belonging, is this the new American Dream?
The film is directed by Dean Terry and features interviews with Andres Duany, James Howard Kunstler and Robert Putnam.

American Painter Andrew Wyeth Dies At 91
Perestroika 2.0 beta, by Dmitry Orlov (original)

I sincerely hope that Obama manages to do better for himself than Gorbachev. History can be mean to do-gooders. On that fateful day when Gorbachev lost his job, his wife suffered a stroke, and he, since that day, hasn't been able to wipe that deer-in-the-headlights look off his face. Trying to solve problems that have no solution is a fine thing to try to do. Even if it is utterly futile, it makes for great drama. But I hope, for his sake, that Obama doesn't give up any of his hobbies. should he still have any.


Please pray for a friend, that she may receive guidance and be able to discern what to do, and also for JP.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Razib Khan, The fall of Rome, the rise of Empire
Robert P. George, A Diverse Bioethics Council? (via Mere Comments, again)

I had not considered that the new president would be appointing a whole slate of new members to the President's Council on Bioethics -- his choices will be interesting, indeed.
Karen De Coster, Life as a Trained Monkey
Michael Shedlock blogs on Time Magazine Best 25 Financial Blogs -- his own blog was mentioned first.
Asia Times: China's modern muscle on parade For a country which strives to reassure its neighbors of its peaceful intentions, the celebrations in October for modern China's founding will be a contrasting presentation of expanding military might. At 2.3 million-strong, the People's Liberation Army is already the world's biggest - and a new set of incentives is drawing even more - and better-educated - recruits. (Jan 23,'09)

Asia Times: Obama adds diplomatic dynamite At a briefing led by new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, United States President Barack Obama named two legendary negotiators as special envoys to deal with the Israel-Arab conflict and "the deteriorating situation" in Afghanistan and Pakistan, respectively. A third veteran diplomat is expected to be named specifically to handle US relations with Iran. - Jim Lobe (Jan 23,'09)

Twitch: Teaser trailer for ‘The Legend of Kamui’ starring Kenichi Matsuyama!

(Wilson Yip / Donnie Yen Hit IP MAN Hits DVD In February!)
There was a rainy day schedule at school today because of the rain. The students were waiting in the cafeteria to be picked up by their teachers. As I walked in to see who was around, I passed by the first graders--and one of my favorites asked me not to go yet, so she could give me something. It turned out to be a candy cane. hah. I wonder how long she had that in her backpack.

But she and her friend were asking for pencils at lunch. The children are easily pleased... pencils! If someone was giving away pencils as prizes when I was a student in elementary school, I don't know if I would have cared. A fancy mechanical pencil maybe. Spoiled? Or used to more expensive prizes? I was both, I would think. Then again, I'd probably try to win the prize, just because it was a prize, not because of what it was.

Someone else was asking for a Hello Kitty sharpener. She was content with the card of the Theotokos and the Christ child that I had. She and her sister were waiting for their 18 yo sister and her boyfriend to pick her up. Apparently the older sister has a baby already, and she's not married. I don't know what sort of example she is giving to her siblings... sigh.

The second grade was all right today--one of the students had her birthday today. They're generally a good bunch of kids.

Zenit: Father Cantalamessa's Address at Family Meeting

Father Cantalamessa's Address at Family Meeting

"Human Sexuality Is the First School of Religion"

MEXICO CITY, JAN. 22, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the Jan. 14 address from Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, at the 6th World Meeting of Families.

The World Meeting was held Jan. 14-18 in Mexico City.

Father Cantalamessa's address was titled "Family Relationships and Values According to the Bible."

* * *

I divide my address into three parts. In the first part I will focus on God's initial plan for marriage and the family and how it came about throughout the history of Israel. In the second part I will speak about the renewal brought by Christ and how it was interpreted and lived in the Christian community of the New Testament. In the third part I will try to consider what biblical revelation can contribute to the solution of the challenges that marriage and family life are facing today.

I will focus on the foundation of the family, and therefore marriage and the relationship within the couple, because I believe the Bible always has a very opportune message in this regard; it is more apropos than in relation to the family as a social reality and the relationships within a family. In this context the Bible reflects a culture that is very different from today's culture. In addition, we know that a good relationship between the parents is the basic requirement for a family to be able to develop an educational role with their children. Many of the dramatic situations young people suffer today are the consequence of broken or dysfunctional families.

Part I

Marriage and Family: the Divine Project
And Human Achievements in the Old Testament

1. The Divine Project

We know that the Book of Genesis has two different accounts of the creation of the first human couple, which go back to two different traditions: the yahwehist (10th century B.C.) and the more recent (6th century B.C.) called the "priestly" tradition.

In the priestly tradition (Genesis 1:26-28) man and woman are created at the same time, not one from the other. Being man and woman are related to being an image of God: "God created mankind in his image, in his image he created them, man and woman he created them." The primary purpose of the union between man and woman is found in being fruitful and filling the earth.

In the yahwehist tradition (Genesis 2:18-25) the woman is taken from the man; the creation of the two sexes is seen as a remedy for solitude: "It is not good that man be alone; I will make him an adequate helper;" The unitive factor is highlighted more than the procreative: "The man will cling to his wife and the two will be one flesh;" Each one is free with regard to their own sexuality and to the other: "Both were naked, the man and his wife, but they were not embarrassed by each other."

Neither of the two accounts references any subordination of the woman to the man, before sin: The two are on a level of absolute equality, although it is the man who takes the initiative at least in the yahwehist account.

I've found the most convincing explanation for this divine "invention" of the difference between the sexes not from a biblical scholar, but from a poet, Paul Claudel:

"Man is a proud being; there was no other way to make him understand his neighbor except introducing him in the flesh. There was no other way to make him understand dependence and need other than through the law of another distinct being (woman) over him, due to the simple fact that she exists."[1]

Opening oneself to the opposite sex is the first step toward opening oneself to others, our neighbors, and to the Other with a capital O, which is God. Marriage is born under the sign of humility; it is the recognition of dependence and therefore of one's condition of being a creature. Falling in love with a woman or a man is the completion of the most radical act of humility. It is becoming a beggar and telling the other person, "I'm not enough for myself, I need your being." If, as Schleiermacher said, the essence of religion is the "sense of dependence" ("Abhaengigheitsgefuehl") on God, then human sexuality is the first school of religion.

Thus far we have examined God's plan. Nevertheless, the rest of the Bible's text cannot be explained without also including the account of the fall in addition to creation, above all what was said to the woman: "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16). The rule of the man over the woman is part of man's sin, not of God's plan; with those words God predicts it, he does not approve it.

2. Historic accomplishments

The Bible is a human and a divine book, not just because its authors are both God and man, but also because it describes, weaved throughout the text, both God's fidelity and man's infidelity. This is especially evident when we compare God's plan over marriage and family with the way it was put into practice in the history of the Chosen People.

It is useful to be aware of the human deficiencies and aberrations so that we're not too surprised by what happens around us and also because it shows that marriage and family are institutions that, at least in practice, evolve over time, as any other aspect of social and religious life. Following the book of Genesis, the son of Cain, Lemek, violates the law of monogamy taking two wives. Noah, with his family appears as an exception in the middle of the general corruption of his time. The very Patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob have children with a number of women. Moses authorizes the practice of divorce; David and Solomon keep a veritable harem of women.

Nevertheless the deviations appear, as always, more present at the higher levels of society, among the leaders, than at the level of the people, where the initial idea of monogamous marriage was likely the norm, not the exception. In order to form an idea of the relationships and family values that are held and lived in Israel we can turn to the wisdom books: Psalms, Proverbs and Sirach. These help us more than the historical books (which deal precisely with the leaders). They highlight marital fidelity, education of offspring and respect for parents. This last value is one of the Ten Commandments: "Honor your father and mother."

The deviation from the initial idea can be seen in the underlying idea of marriage in Israel, even more than in particular individual transgressions. The principal involution is related to two basic points. The first is that marriage changes from being an end to being a means. Overall, the Old Testament considers marriage to be "a patriarchal structure of authority, primarily driven to the perpetuation of the clan. In this sense we must understand the institutions of the levirate (Deuteronomy 25:5-10), concubine (Genesis 16), and provisional polygamy."[2] The ideal of a communion of life between man and woman, founded on a reciprocal and personal relationship, is not forgotten, but becomes less important than the good of the offspring.

The second great deviation refers to the condition of women: She goes from being a companion of man, gifted with equal dignity, to appearing more and more subordinated to man and serving a function for man. This can be seen even in the famous eulogy of a woman in the Book of Proverbs: "Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies ..." (Proverbs 31:10) It is a eulogy of woman made completely in terms of man's needs. Its conclusion is: Happy the man that possesses such a woman! She weaves him beautiful clothes, honors his house, she allows him to walk with his head held high among his friends. I don't thing that women today would be very excited about this eulogy.

The prophets played an important role by shedding light on God's initial plan for marriage, especially Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah. They posited the union of man and woman as a symbol of the covenant between God and his people. As a result of this, they once again shed light on the values of mutual love, fidelity and indissolubility that characterize God's love for Israel. All the phases and sufferings of spousal love are described and used in this regard: the beauty of love in the early stage of courtship (cf. Jeremiah 2:2), the fullness of joy on the wedding day (cf. Isaiah 62:5), the drama of separation (cf. Hosea 2:4) and finally the rebirth, full of hope, of the old bond (cf. Hosea 2:16, Isaiah 54:8).

Malachi shows the positive effect that the prophetic message could have on human marriage, and especially, on the condition of women. He writes:

"The Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth" (Malachi 2:14-15).

We have to read the Song of Songs in the light of this prophetic tradition. This represents a rebirth of the vision of marriage as eros, as attraction of the man to the woman (in this case, also of the woman to the man); it presents the oldest account of creation.

On the other hand, certain modern exegesis is mistaken when it tries to interpret the Song of Songs exclusively in terms of human love between a man and a woman. The author of Songs writes from within the religious history of his people, where human love was assumed by the prophets to be a metaphor for the covenant between God and his people. Hosea turned his own marital situation into a metaphor for the relations between God and Israel. How could we imagine that the author of Songs would leave all of that behind? The mystical interpretation of Songs, beloved in the tradition of Israel and the Church, is not a later imposition, but rather it is in some way implicit in the text. Far from detracting from human love, it confers upon it new beauty and splendor.

Part II

Marriage and Family in the New Testament

I. Christ's renewal of marriage

St. Irenaeus explains the "recapitulation ('anakephalaiosis') of all things" performed by Christ (Ephesians 1:10) as a "taking things from the beginning to lead them to their fulfillment." The concept implies continuity and novelty at the same time and in this sense it is fulfilled in an exemplary way in Christ's work with regards to marriage.

a. The continuity

Chapter 19 of the Gospel of St. Matthew alone is enough to illustrate the two aspects of renewal. Let us see first of all how Jesus takes things anew from the beginning.

"Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?' ‘Haven't you read,' he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator "made them male and female," (Genesis 1:27) and said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate'" (Matthew 19:3-6).

The adversaries move in the restricted confines of the case-based reasoning proper to different schools (is it licit to divorce the woman for any motive or is a specific and serious motive required); Jesus responds by tackling the problem at the root, going to the beginning. In his response, Jesus refers to the two accounts of the institution of marriage; he takes elements from both, but above all he highlights the aspects of the communion of persons present in both accounts.

What follows in the text, regarding the problem of divorce, also follows this same direction; in fact he confirms the fidelity and indissolubility of the marital bond above even the good of offspring, on the basis of which polygamy, levirate and divorce had been justified in the past.

"'Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?' He said to them, 'It was because you were so hard-hearted, that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: anyone who divorces his wife -- I am not speaking of an illicit marriage -- and marries another, is guilty of adultery'" (Matthew 19:7-9).

The parallel text of Mark shows how also in the case of divorce, man and woman are on a level of absolute equality according to Jesus: "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too" (Mark 10:11-12).

I will not spend time on the "illicit marriage" clause ("porneia"), which is absent in Mark's text and could be a later addition of Matthew to adapt the saying of Jesus to the situation of his community. Instead I want to emphasize the "implicit sacramental foundation of marriage" present in Jesus' response.[3] The words "What God has joined" say that marriage is not a purely secular reality, fruit of human will; there is a sacred aspect to marriage that is rooted in divine will.

The elevation of marriage to a "sacrament" therefore is not based solely on the weak argument of Jesus' presence at the wedding of Cana, nor in the text of Ephesians 5 alone. In a certain way it begins with the earthly Jesus and is part of his leading all things to the beginning. John Paul II is also right when he defines marriage as the "oldest sacrament."[4]

b. The novelty

Thus far we have focused on the continuity. What is the novelty? Paradoxically it consists in making marriage relative. Let's listen to the following text from Matthew:

"The disciples said to him, 'If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry. But he replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can'" (Matthew 19:10-12).

With these words Jesus institutes a second state of life, justifying it by the coming to earth of the Kingdom of Heaven. It does not eliminate the other possibility, marriage, but it makes it relative. What happens to it is similar to the idea of the state in the political sphere: It is not abolished, but rather radically limited by the revelation of the contemporary presence, within history, of the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, voluntary continence does not need to deny or despise marriage so that its own validity can be recognized. (Some ancient authors made this mistake in some of their writings on virginity). What's more, it derives its meaning from none other than contemporary affirmation of the goodness of marriage. The institution of celibacy and virginity for the Kingdom ennobles marriage in the sense that it becomes a choice, a vocation, and not just simply a moral duty to which it was impossible not to submit oneself in Israel without exposure to the accusation of trespassing God's commandment.

It's important to remember something which is easily forgotten. Celibacy and virginity mean renouncing marriage, not sexuality, which retains all the richness of its meaning, even though it is lived in a different way. The celibate person and the virgin also feel attraction, and therefore dependence on people of the opposite sex, and it is precisely this which gives meaning to their choice for chastity.

c. Jesus, an enemy of family?

Among the many theses posited in recent years in the so-called "Third Quest on the historical Jesus"; we find the idea that Jesus rejected the natural family and all parental bonds in the name of belonging to a different community, in which God is the father and the disciples are all brothers and sisters, proposing an itinerant life, as was lived in that time outside of Israel by the cynic philosophers.[5]

In effect, in the Gospels, Christ uses words that at first glance cause bewilderment. Jesus says: "Anyone who comes to me without hating father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). Certainly harsh words, but the evangelist Matthew hurries to explain the sense of the word "hate" in this case: "No one who prefers father or mother to me is worthy of me. No one who prefers son or daughter to me is worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). So Jesus does not ask us to hate our parents or children, but rather that we not love them to the point to which we refuse to follow him because of them.

Another episode causes confusion. "Another to whom he said, 'Follow me,' replied, 'Let me go and bury my father first.' But he answered, 'Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God'" (Luke 9:59). For some critics this is a scandalous request, among them the American rabbi Jacob Neusner, with whom Benedict XVI has a conversation in his book about Jesus of Nazareth.[6] It is disobedience to God, who orders that we take care of parents, a flagrant violation of filial duties.

What we have to give to Rabbi Neusner is that Christ's words, such as these, cannot be explained while we consider Christ a mere man, as exceptional as may be. Only God can ask that he be loved more than a parent, and to follow that up, to give up attending a burial. For the believers this is further proof that Jesus is God. For Neusner, it is the reason why he cannot be followed.

The confusion caused by these requests from Jesus also come from not keeping in mind the difference between what he asks all without distinction and what he asks of only some that are called to share in his life entirely dedicated to the Kingdom, as continues to happen today in the Church. The same should be said about the renunciation of marriage: He does not impose it, nor does he propose it to all without distinction, but rather only to those who accept to put themselves at the complete service of the Kingdom as he does (cf. Matthew 19:10-12).

All these doubts about the attitude of Jesus toward family and marriage fall apart if we keep in mind the other passages of the Gospel. Jesus is most rigorous regarding the indissolubility of marriage; he heavily stresses the commandment to honor father and mother, to the point of condemning the practice of excusing oneself from the duty to assist them under religious pretexts (Mark 7:11-13). How many miracles Jesus works precisely to step forward to meet parents in their suffering (Jairo, the father of the epileptic), mothers (the Canaanite, the widow of Naim), or of relatives (the sisters of Lazarus), therefore, to honor the family bonds. On more than one occasion he shares the pain of the relatives up to the point of crying with them.

In a moment such as the present, in which everything seems to be conspiring to weaken the bonds and values of the family, we would only need to oppose Jesus and the Gospel to them! Jesus has come to give marriage back its original beauty, to reinforce it, not to weaken it.

2. Marriage and family in the Apostolic Church

Just as we have done with God's original project, also concerning the renewal worked by Christ we intend to see how it was received and lived in the life and catechesis of the Church, limiting ourselves to the reality of the apostolic Church for the moment. Paul is our primary source of information, having had to dedicate himself to the problem in some of his letters, above all in the First Letter to the Corinthians.

The Apostle distinguishes between what comes directly from the Lord and the particular applications that he himself makes when required by the context in which he preaches the Gospel. The confirmation of the indissolubility of marriage is part of the first type: "To the married I give this ruling, and this is not mine but the Lord's: a wife must not be separated from her husband or if she has already left him, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband -- and a husband must not divorce his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:10-11); the guidance regarding marriage between believers and nonbelievers and the provisions regarding celibates and virgins is part of the second type of the Apostle's teaching: "I have no directions from the Lord, but I give my own opinion" (1 Corinthians 7:10;7:25).

The Church has received from Jesus also the element of novelty which consists, as we have seen, in the institution of a second state of life: celibacy and virginity for the Kingdom. To them, Paul, he himself not married, dedicates the final part of Chapter 7 of his letter. Based on the verse: "I should still like everyone to be as I am myself; but everyone has his own gift from God, one this kind and the next something different" (1 Corinthians 7:7), some think that the Apostle considers marriage and virginity as two charisms. But that is not accurate; virgins have received the charism of virginity, married people have other charisms (understood not that of virginity). It's meaningful that the Church's theology has always considered virginity a charism and not a sacrament, and marriage a sacrament and not a charism.

The text of the Letter to the Ephesians will have a noteworthy effect in the process that will bring about the recognition of the sacramentality of marriage: "This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh. This mystery (in Latin, "sacramentum") has great significance, but I am applying it to Christ and the Church" (Ephesians 5:31-32). This is not an isolated occasional assertion, based on a loose translation of the word "mystery" ("mysterion") with the Latin "sacramentum." Marriage as a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the Church is based on a series of statements and parables in which Jesus applied the title of spouse to himself, attributed to God by the prophets.

As the apostolic community grows and consolidates, we see how an entire familial pastoral practice and spirituality flower. The most meaningful texts in this regard are the letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians. Both of them show the two fundamental relationships that constitute family: the relationship between husband and wife and the relationship between parents and children. With regard to the first relationship, the Apostle writes:

"Submit to each other in the fear of Christ. Women to their husbands, as to the Lord ... As the Church is submissive to Christ, so also should wives submit to their husbands in all. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her."

Paul recommended that husbands "love" their wives (and this seems normal to us), but then he recommends that wives be "submissive" to their husbands, and this, in a society that is strongly (and rightfully) conscious of the equality of the sexes, seems unacceptable. On this point St. Paul is, at least in part, conditioned by the customs of his time. The difficulty, on the other hand, changes if we keep in mind the phrase from the beginning of the text: "Be submissive to one another in the fear of Christ," which establishes reciprocity in submission and in love.

With regard to the relationship between parents and children, Paul emphasizes the traditional advice of the wisdom books:

"Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord -- that is what uprightness demands. The first commandment that has a promise attached to it is: Honor your father and your mother; and the promise is: so that you may have long life and prosper in the land. And parents, never drive your children to resentment but bring them up with correction and advice inspired by the Lord" (Ephesians 6:1-4).

The pastoral letters, especially the Letter to Titus, offer detailed rules for every category of person: women, spouses, bishops and priests, old people, young people, widows, owners and slaves (cf. Titus 2:1-9). In fact slaves were also part of the family in the broad understanding of the time.

In the early Church as well, the ideal of marriage that Jesus proposes will not be put into practice without shadows and resistance. In addition to the case of incest of Corinth (1 Corinthians 8:1), this is borne out by the need the apostles feel of insisting on this aspect of the early Christian life. But overall, the Christians presented the world a new family model that became one of the principal factors in evangelization.

The author of the letter to Diognetus, in the second century, says that the Christians "marry as every one else does and have children, but they do not abandon the newborns; they have a common table, but not a common bed" (V:6-7). In his Apology, Justin constructs an argument that we Christians of today should be able to make our own in dialogue with political authorities. In essence he says the following: You, Roman emperors, multiply the laws about family, which have proven to be incapable of stopping its dissolution. Come to see our families and you will be convinced Christians are your better allies in the reform of society, not your enemies. In the end, as is known, after three centuries of persecution, the Empire accepted the Christian family model in its own legislation.

Part III

What the Bible Teaches Us Today

Rereading the Bible in a conference like this one, which is not of biblical scholars, but rather of pastoral workers in the field of family care, cannot be limited to a simple reminder of revealed knowledge, but rather it should be able to enlighten current problems. "Scriptures, as St. Gregory the Great said, grow with the one that reads them" ("cum legentibus crescit"); they reveal new implications to the measure in which new questions are posed to them. And today there are many new and provocative questions.

1. Objection to the biblical ideal

We are confronted by a seemingly global objection to the biblical plan for sexuality, marriage and family. Monsignor Tony Anatrella's research, which was given to the speakers in preparation for this congress, provides a well-thought and highly useful summary of this subject.[7] How should we react in the face of this phenomenon?

The first error we should avoid, in my opinion, is spending the whole time fighting contrary theories, in the end giving them more importance than they deserve. Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagita noted a long time ago that the exposition of one's truth is always more successful than rebutting the errors of others (Letter VI, in PG 3, 1077A). Another error is to focus all efforts on the laws of country to defend Christian values. The first Christians, as we have seen, changed the laws of the state through their lifestyle. We cannot do the contrary today, hoping to change lifestyles with the laws of the state.

The Council opened a new method, that of dialogue, not confrontation with the world: a method which does not even exclude self criticism. One of the Council documents said that the Church can benefit even from the criticism of those that attack it. I believe that we should apply this method also in discussing the problems of marriage and the family, as "Gaudium et Spes" did in its own time.

Applying this method of dialogue means trying to see if even behind the most radical attacks there is a positive request that we should welcome. It is the old Pauline method of examining everything and keeping the good (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21). This is what happened with Marxism, which motivated the Church to develop its own social doctrine, and it could also happen with the gender revolution which, as Monsignor Anatrella observes in his research, presents more than a few similarities to Marxism and is probably destined to the same end.

The criticism of the traditional model of marriage and family, which have led to the current, unacceptable, proposals of deconstructionism, began with the Enlightenment and Romanticism. With different intentions, these two movements objected to traditional marriage, seen exclusively as its objective "ends" -- offspring, society, Church; and to little in itself -- in its subjective and interpersonal value. Everything was asked of the future spouses, except that they love each other and choose each other freely. Marriage as a pact (Enlightenment) and as a communion of love (Romanticism) between the spouses was proposed to contradict such a model.

But this criticism follows the original meaning of the Bible, it does not contradict it! The Second Vatican Council took in this request when it recognized as equally central to marriage both mutual love and support of the spouses. John Paul II, in a Wednesday catechesis said:

"The human body, with its sex, and its masculinity and femininity seen in the very mystery of creation, is not only a source of fruitfulness and procreation, as in the whole natural order. It includes right from the beginning the nuptial attribute, that is, the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift and -- by means of this gift -- fulfills the meaning of his being and existence."[8]

In his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," Pope Benedict XVI has gone even farther, writing deep and new things with regards to eros in marriage and in the very relationship between God and man. "This close relationship between eros and marriage that the Bible presents has practically no parallel in literature outside itself."[9]

The unusually positive reaction to this papal encyclical shows to what degree a peaceful presentation of the Christian truth is more productive than rebutting the error of others, even though we should find room for this as well, at the proper time and place. We are far from agreeing with the consequences that some today draw from this premise: for example, that any type of eros is enough to constitute a marriage, even that between persons of the same sex; but this rejection gains greater strength and credibility if it is connected to the recognition of the underlying goodness of the request and as well with a healthy self criticism.

We cannot in effect silence the contribution that Christians made to the formation of that purely objectivist view of marriage. The authority of Augustine, reinforced on this point by Thomas Aquinas, ended up shedding a negative light on the carnal union of the spouses, considered the means of transmitting original sin and in itself sinful "at least venially." According to the doctor of Hippo, spouses should engage in the conjugal act with disgust and only because there was no other way of giving citizens to the state and members to the Church.

Another request we can make our own is that of the dignity of women in marriage. As we can see, it is at the very heart of God's original plan and Christ's thought, but it has almost always been neglected. God's word to Eve: "You will be drawn to you spouse and he will dominate you" has been tragically played out throughout history.

Among the representatives of the so-called gender revolution, this idea has led to crazy proposals, such as that of abolishing the distinction between sexes and substituting it with the more elastic and subjective distinction of "genders" (masculine, feminine, variable) or that of freeing women from the slavery of maternity, providing other means, invented by man, for the production of children. (It is not clear who would continue to have interest or desire at this point in having children.)

It is precisely through choosing to dialogue and engage in self criticism that we have the right to denounce these projects as "inhuman," in other words, contrary to not only God's will, but also to the good of humanity. If they were to become common practice on a large scale, they would lead to unforeseeable damages. The book and the movie "The Island of Dr. Moreau" by H. G. Wells could prove to be tragically prophetic, this time not only among animals but also among human beings.

Our only hope is that people's common sense, together with the "desire" for the other sex, with the need for maternity and paternity that God has written in human nature, resist these attempts to substitute God. They are inspired more by belated feelings of guilt in men than by genuine respect and love for women. (Those who propose these theories are almost all men!)

2. An ideal that must be rediscovered

Christians' task of rediscovering and fully living the biblical ideal of marriage and family is no less important than defending it. In this way it can be proposed again to the world with facts, more so than with words.

Let's read today the account of the creation of man and woman in the light of the revelation of the Trinity. Under this light, the phrase: "God created mankind in his image, in his image he created him, male and female he created them" finally reveals its meaning, which was mysterious and uncertain before Christ. What relation could there be between being "in the image of God" and being "male and female?" The God of the Bible does not have sexual connotations; he is neither male nor female.

The similarity is this: God is love and love demands communion, interpersonal exchange; it needs to have an "I" and a "you." There is no love that is not love for someone. Where there is only one subject there can be no love, only egotism and narcissism. Where God is thought of as Law and as absolute Power, there is no need for a plurality of persons. (Power can be exercised alone!). The God revealed by Jesus Christ, being love, is one and only, but he is not solitary; he is one and triune. In him coexist unity and distinction: unity of nature, of will, of intention, and distinction of characteristics and persons.

Two people that love each other, and the case of man and woman in marriage is the strongest, reproduce something that happens in the Trinity. There two persons, the Father and the Son, loving each other, produce ("breathe") the Spirit that is the love the joins them. Someone once defined the Holy Spirit as the divine "Us," that is, not the "third person of the Trinity," but rather the first person plural.[10]

Precisely in this way the human couple is an image of God. Husband and wife are in effect a single flesh, a single heart, a single soul, even in the diversity of sex and personality. In the couple, unity and diversity reconcile themselves. The spouses face each other as an "I" and a "you", and face the rest of the world, beginning with their own children, as a "we," almost as if it was a single person, no longer singular but rather plural. "We," in other words, "your mother and I," "your father and I."

In light of this we discover the profound meaning of the prophets' message regarding human marriage, which is therefore a symbol and reflection of another love, God's love for his people. This doesn't involve overburdening a purely human reality with mystical meaning. It is not a question simply of symbolism; rather it involves revealing the true face and final purpose of the creation of man and woman: leaving one's own isolation and "egotism," opening up to the other, and through the temporal ecstasy of carnal union, elevating oneself to the desire for love and for happiness without end.

What's the reason for the incompleteness and dissatisfaction that sexual union leaves within and outside of marriage? Why does this impulse always fall over itself and why does this promise of infinity and eternity always end up disappointed? The ancients coined a phrase that paints this reality: "Post coitum animal triste": just like any other animal, man is sad after carnal union.

The pagan poet Lucretius left us a raw description of this frustration that accompanies each copulation, which should not be scandalous for us to hear at a congress for spouses and families:

"And mingle the slaver of their mouths, and breathe
Into each other, pressing teeth on mouths -
Yet to no purpose, since they're powerless
To rub off aught, or penetrate and pass
With body entire into body"[11]

The search for remedy to this frustration only increases it. Instead of modifying the quality of the act, the quantity is increased, moving from one partner to another. This is how God's gift of sexuality is ruined, in the trend of culture and society today.

As Christians, do we want to find an explanation once and for all for this devastating dysfunction? The explanation is that sexual union is not lived in the way and with the purpose in which God intended it. The purpose was, through this ecstasy and fusion of love, that man and woman would be elevated to the desire and have a certain taste for infinite love. They would remember from whence they came and where they were going.

Sin, beginning with the biblical sin of Adam and Eve, has gutted this plan; it has "profaned" this gesture, in other words, it has stripped it of its religious value. It has turned it into a gesture that is an end in itself, which finishes with itself, and is therefore "unsatisfactory." The symbol has been separated from the reality it symbolizes, bereft of its intrinsic dynamism and therefore mutilated. Never as much as in this case is St. Augustine's saying true: "You made us, Lord, for you and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

Even couples that are believers, sometimes more than others, don't come to find this richness of the initial meaning of sexual union due to the idea of concupiscence and original sin associated with the act for so many centuries. Only in the witness of some couples that have had a renewing experience of the Holy Spirit and that live Christian life charismatically do we find something of that original meaning of the conjugal act. They have confided with wonder, to friends or a priest, that they unite praising God out loud, and even singing in tongues. It was a real experience of God's presence.

It is understandable why it is only possible to find this fullness of the marital vocation in the Holy Spirit. The constitutive act of marriage is reciprocal self-giving, making a gift of one's own body to the spouse (or, in the words of the Bible, of one's whole self). In being the sacrament of the gift, marriage is, by its nature, a sacrament that is open to the action of the Holy Spirit, who is the Gift par excellence, or better said, the reciprocal self-giving of the Father and the Son. It is the sanctifying presence of the Spirit that makes marriage not only a celebrated sacrament, but a lived sacrament.

The secret to getting access to these splendors of Christian love is to give Christ space within the life of the couple. In fact, the Holy Spirit that makes all things new, comes from him. A book by Fulton Sheen, popular in the 50s, reiterated this with its title: "Three to Get Married."[12]

We should not be afraid of proposing a very high goal to some especially prepared couples, who will be future Christian spouses: that of praying a while the wedding night, as Tobias and Sarah, and afterward giving God the Father the joy of seeing his initial plan realized anew, thanks to Christ, when Adam and Eve were nude in front of each other and both in front of God and they were not ashamed.

I end with some words taken once again from "The Satin Slipper" by Claudel. It is a dialogue between the woman of the drama and her guardian angel. The woman struggles between her fear and the desire to surrender herself to love:

- So, is this love of the creatures, one for another, allowed? Isn't God jealous?
- How could He be jealous of what He Himself made?
- But man, in the arms of the woman, forgets God...
- Can they forget Him when they are with Him, participating in the mystery of his creation?[13]

--- --- ---

[1] P. Claudel, Le soulier de satin, a.III. sc.8 (éd. La Pléiade, II, Paris 1956, p. 804) : «Cet orgueilleux, il n'y avait pas d'autre moyen de lui faire comprendre le prochain, de le lui entres dans la chair.
Il n'y avait pas d'autre moyen de lui faire comprendre la dépendance, la nécessité et le besoin, un autre sur lui,
La loi sur lui de cet être différent pour aucune autre raison si ce n'est qu'il existe».
[2] B. Wannenwetsch, Mariage, in Dictionnaire Critique de Théologie, a cura di J.-Y. Lacoste, Parigi 1998, p. 700.
[3] Cf. G. Campanini, Matrimonio, in Dizionario di Teologia, Ed. San Paolo 2002, pp. 964 s.

[4] Giovanni Paolo II, Uomo e donna lo creò. Catechesi sull'amore umano, Rome 1985, p. 365.
[5] Cf. B. Griffin, Was Jesus a Philosophical Cynic? []; C. Augias e M. Pesce, Inchiesta su Gesú, Mondadori, 2006, pp. 121 ss.
[6] E.P. Sanders, Gesù e il giudaismo, Marietti, 1992, pp.324 ss.; J. Neusner, A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000, pp. 53-72.

[7] T. Anatrella, Définitions des termes du Néo-langage de la philosophie du Constructivisme et du genre, a cura del Pontificium Consilium pro Familia, Città del Vaticano Novembre 2008.
[8] John Paul II, Discourse at the general audience of 16 January 1980 (Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1980, p. 148).
[9] Benedict XVI, Enc. Deus caritas est, 11.

[10] Cf. Cf. H. Mühlen, Der Heilige Geist als Person. Ich -Du -Wir, Muenster, in W. 1966.
[11] Lucretius, De rerum natura, IV,2 vv. 1104-1107.
[12] F. Sheen, Three to Get Married, Appleton-Century-Crofts 1951.

[13] P. Claudel, Le soulier de satin, a.III. sc.8 (éd. La Pléiade, II, Paris 1956, pp. 804):
- Dona Prouhèze. - -Eh quoi! Ainsi c'était permis? cet amour des créatures l'une pour l'autre, il est donc vrai que Dieu n'est pas jaloux ?
- L'Ange Gardien.- Comment serait-il jaloux de ce qu'il a fait ?...
- Dona Prouhèze. - L'homme entre les bras de la femme oublie Dieu.
- L'Ange Gardien.- Est-ce l'oublier que d'être avec lui ? est-ce ailleurs qu'avec lui d'être associé au mystère da sa création ?

[Translation by Thomas Daly]

Why is Fr. Cantalamessa making use of the JEDP hypothesis? I didn't feel like reading the text any further after I encountered it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Schedule of liturgies with the St. Ann Choir:

The St. Ann Choir invites you to upcoming celebrations at St. Thomas Aquinas
Waverley at Homer, Palo Alto

Sunday, January 25, 12:00 noon. Conversion of St. Paul, celebrated on the Sunday because of the Year of St. Paul; Gregorian Mass with Renaissance motets. Celebrant: Fr. Kevin Joyce, director of Spirit Site, a spirituality center for he Diocese of San Jose.

Sunday, February 1, 12:00 noon, Patronal Feast, St. Thomas Aquinas; Gregorian Mass with Renaissance motets. Celebrant: Fr. Anselm Ramelow, O.P., chair of philosophy, Dominican School in Berkeley.

Monday, February 2, 8:00 p.m. Candlemas, The Presentation of the Lord. Candlelight procession and Mass. William Byrd, Mass for Three Voices. Celebrant: Fr. Michael Barber, S.J., professor of theology at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park.
Wednesday, February 25, 8:00 p.m. Ash Wednesday, Gregorian Mass and Renaissance motets with distribution of ashes. Celebrant: Fr. Michael Barber, S.J.
Information: call 650-493-7933
George Clooney Interview At Ellen Show 1/19/2009- Part 1 (HQ)

Listen to the women in the audience when they find out gorgeous George is going to make an appearance on the show.

Would the real George Clooney be considered an alpha male? I don't think good looks, fame, and money are enough to make one an alpha male, and onscreen charisma... that could be an illusion. Do men and women feel drawn to seeking a helpmate and companion for themselves? But perceived in different ways? Does how they conceive of their role in life affect their fantasies regarding love and romance? If Mr. Clooney were to make an appearance on The View or Oprah, would the audience reaction not be the same?

George Clooney Interview At Ellen Show 1/19/2009- Part 2

You hear Ms. Degeneres thanking Mr. Clooney for what he did regarding Prop. 8. Another celeb to boycott. (Even if one is tempted to watch the ER episode in which Doug Ross returns, along with Carol Hathaway.)

SNL: Digital Short: Doogie Howser Theme

Stephen Hough has a blog. (I found this out through Damian Thompson.) This blog entry was interesting: Eucharist I -- I don't know what to make of the book by Timothy Radcliffe. From Mr. Hough's comments on the book, I would gather that Friar Radcliffe is stealing a page from contemporary Jesuits. I previously blogged about Stephen Hough here and here.

Piano genius with mass appeal
Stephen Hough: from obscurity to best classical album
15 Questions to Stephen Hough
Hyperion Records | Stephen Hough (piano) ~ Preaching - Preaching by Timothy Radcliffe O.P.
Dennis Dale, Heckling the Coronation

Our elite has failed us. Don’t expect that to be featured in the official proclamations. Whose “dogma” (to use the phrase that President Obama, in one of his brilliant ironic turns, used to stigmatize his political opposition simultaneous with a call to unity) was it that declared profligacy a virtue and thrift a vice, after all? How sophisticated did the elite expect (or want) a forklift driver in Tennessee to be about finance or monetary policy? Has he, derided as fat and lazy and unfit for the global economy by people whose highest aspiration is to one day read from a teleprompter while presenting television audiences with an inoffensive visage, worked less for more? No; he’s worked more and gone further into debt for less.
Maximos (@WWWTW), Empire, Destroying Subsidiarity

I left this comment:
"When most people critique the empire, they are looking at American foreign policy and actiongs taken by the U.S. government overseas. Is this what you are referring to? It seems to me that the violation of sovereignty or the usurpation of authority overseas is not quite the same as the violation of subsidiarity. However, it seems more appropriate to talk about the violation of subsidiarity if we look at the nation-state as a form of empire, with the centralization of power and the destruction of the federal system after the Civil War. But even then this might be questionable, as I don't think the American Federal system, as originally intended, actually was an embodiment of subsidiarity, but something else."

Edit. Maximos's response.
EB: 2009 Japan prize honors lead author of ‘"The Limits to Growth"
Staff, Chelsea Green and Science & Technology Foundation of Japan
Dr. Dennis Meadows, lead scientist and co-author of The Limits to Growth (1972) and its subsequent updates, is the winner of this year’s Japan Prize from the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan for “Transformation towards a sustainable society in harmony with nature.” This prestigious award is given once a year to people from all parts of the world whose original and outstanding achievements in science and technology are recognized as having advanced the frontiers of knowledge and served the cause of peace and prosperity for humankind.

Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jorgen Randers
Limits to Growth, 30 Year Update
ASPO 5. Dennis Meadows - Peak Oil and Limits to Growth
wiki, Dennis Meadows
Paul Craig Roberts, Another Real Estate Crisis is About to Hit
Robert George, Our Struggle for the Soul of our Nation (via Mere Comments)
Paul Gottfried, The Patron Saint of White Guilt

At first glance, you might think, "Can it get any more politically incorrect than this?" But Prof. Gottfried offers a level-headed assessment of the man and the times.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

via NLM, this obituary: Tessa Bonner: Soprano who sang with the Tallis Scholars for more than 25 years

Tallis Scholars
taverner: choir•consort•players
Gabrieli Consort & Players
New London Consort
St James' Baroque
His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts (HMSC)
Collegium Vocale Gent
The King's Consort
London Mozart Players
Musica Secreta

Lute - A network for lovers of lute music
Kathy Kristof, The Great College Hoax (via Dr. Helen)

The two disillusioned attorneys were victims of an unfolding education hoax on the middle class that's just as insidious, and nearly as sweeping, as the housing debacle. The ingredients are strikingly similar, too: Misguided easy-money policies that are encouraging the masses to go into debt; a self-serving establishment trading in half-truths that exaggerate the value of its product; plus a Wall Street money machine dabbling in outright fraud as it foists unaffordable debt on the most vulnerable marks.

I'm not going to discuss Keanu's acting skills and whether he can do Spike right. (How are they going to do Spike's hair in the live action movie?) Rather, I just wanted to comment on his martial arts training. It seems not even Yuen Wo Ping could make the fighting of the Matrix seem more 'natural' to the characters, especially Neo. I don't think he was in charge of the editing and camera speed; if he had been, perhaps he could have fixed this. Neo's first fights looked very choreographed. It wasn't as bad in the second and third movies. (It's been a while since I've seen all three. After being disappointed by the trilogy, it will be a while before I see them again.)

Sure, the Hong Kong kung fu movies of the 70s were obviously choreographed as well. But the choreography become much more realistic with Jackie Chan's ascent, and this continued through the 80s and 90s. (Donnie Yen can be singled out for the work that he has done, especially recently. It's unfortunate that the dialogue and the plot of his recent movies do not equal the quality of his fight scenes. But Ip Man should be different.) Period martial arts movies have become more wuxia in appearance, with a lot of wire fu--there were a few exceptions, like Jackie Chan's Drunken Fist 2, thanks to the participation of both Chan and the direction of Lau Kar Leung.

I don't think it's the case that "white guys don't do kung fu." (Some can also dance, maintain rhythm, and play basketball.) Given that Spike's fighting skills were an hommage to Bruce Lee and JKD, Maybe Keanu could learn some JKD from someone like Tommy Caruthers:

There's also Dan Inosanto:

Dan Inosanto - Jun Fan Gung Fu JKD Footwork

Otherwise, I don't know if he can really pull off a Bruce Lee imitation, with respect to his onscreen fighting skills.

Dan inosanto on Bruce Lee and JKD 1
Dan Inosanto on Bruce Lee and JKD 2
Dan Inosanto on Bruce Lee and JKD 3
Dan Inosanto 1995 Part 1 of 4
Dan Inosanto 1995 Part 2 of 4
Dan Inosanto 1995 Part 3 of 4
Dan Inosanto 1995 Part 4 of 4
Jeet Kune Do Hand Knife Techniques

More links:
Written one week ago, before the Israeli cease-fire and withdrawal (which was completed today): On War #288: Israel Doesn’t Get 4GW, by William Lind

Is the 4GW way of thinking of things the best representation of political reality? Perhaps not, but I find myself using the model more and more, and could have written parts of Lind's piece. A good thing or a bad thing?

How will Obama handle Afghanistan and Pakistan? And will he say anything about Israel this week?
Twitch: Ah, Much Better. A Watchable - And Subtitled - Trailer For Derek Yee’s SHINJUKU INCIDENT
Twitch: Francis Ng’s CHASING SHADOWS Might Just Be The Cure For Your Wuxia Fatigue.

I watched the teaser. A lot of wire-fu. But what should one expect in a wuxia movie? It reminds me of certain Korean dramas and movies, especially Damo.

Maybe I'm just not into wuxia movies that much any more.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2nd Meditation for Christian Unity Prayer Week
3rd Meditation for Christian Unity Prayer Week
I liveblogged the inauguration a bit this morning on Facebook. Was there a lot to critique? His talking points were mostly phrased in terms of vague generalities, with nothing concrete or specific being offered to address the problems that he mentioned. A lot like the campaign rhetoric. Of course, we all know about his stimulus plan, and he did have a transition website. But I would have liked for President Obama to have said more about how Americans need to sacrifice, and in what ways. Do we need to give up the idea of an infinitely expanding economy? His talk about alternative fuels was disappointing, as he continues to advocate biofuels as an economically feasible source of energy. As for his claim that we 'may be facing' new challenges. Well, we aren't--nothing that hasn't been around for a while--the need to curb the oligarchs and bring about social justice, for one. (Perhaps he should read some of the papal encyclicals presenting the Church's social teaching.)

On Facebook, someone unfriended me today--perhaps as a result of the criticisms I was making of the inauguration and of the inaugural address--it was Mrs. O's daughter. That's too bad, since I originally made the request to maintain some sort of link to Mrs. O. Usually I refrain from being too political on Facebook, since it's not really a secure place to voice one's opinion. Not that the Internet is any better, but at least on certain websites one can have a conversation with those who agree on first principles, without being distracted by others who are opposed to those principles. The mania surrounding the inauguration and the historical novelty will eventually subside. Will his supporters be disappointed? And how soon?

With a social networking website like Facebook, one is tempted to make as many connections as possible, even though not all of the relationships are of the same depth. Is it really that vital to make it possible for others to find and contact me, if they have the need to do so? Close friendships should be maintained without the use of Facebook; what then, of the other associations? It seems unlikely that one can form even an "online community" with all of one's FB friends as members--they have better things to do with their time. Perhaps FB would be useful for prayer requests and other notifications, but if one is grounded in a real community and parish (or has access to a community of contemplatives), would FB really be necessary for the former?

I suppose the human heart is such that it holds out hope that friendships that have deteriorated due to distance will eventually be re-strengthened, and latches on to FB as a means of bringing this about.

Are you dissatisfied with your life? Many moral theology texts have taken the eudaimonistic approach--one sees this approach taken in various evangelization efforts as well. I was thinking about this today... might it be that when some people report a voice telling them something is wrong, this isn't their conscience, but really the Holy Spirit at work? The eudaimonistic approach will not work with those are content with their lives. Something needs to make them question whether they are happy, either their conscience or God Himself. If I do not believe in God and do not perceive that there is anything missing from my life, and that my goodness is good enough, what reason do I have to consider theism, much less a moral conversion that is centered on God?
Peter Hitchens, Don't call me a snob. I'm Lower Upper Middle Class
Dancing with the Stars gallery at Yahoo!
The Distributist Review: Should Distributism Be Given a New Name? and The Paleocrat Tribune's New Site

More from John Médaille:
Chapter XIV: The Cost of Government
Chapter XV: Taxes, Economic Rent, and Externalities
An Interview with Albert Bates (via EB)

Website for the book: A Nation of Farmers.

Also via EB: Reality Report: Ben Gisin of Touch the Soil magazine -- mp3.

Ben Gisin is co-founder and publisher of Touch the Soil magazine, an agricultural magazine promoting resilient agricultural practices. He speaks with Jason Bradford about the crumbling industrial agricultural system and its close relationship with the global economy.
Rod Dreher gets caught up in inauguration fever: We have a new president!

He's good at reporting crunchy topics, but when it comes to grasping what the American system is really like and the nature of the National Government, there is a big distance between him and paleos.
The Comparative Insignificance Of Politics, by William Murchison
Hosing Obama Israeli Style, by Chuck Spinney
Should the US Pull the Plug on Israel?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Citizenship is not an entitlement.

source: Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

As another Presidential Inauguration draws near, one waits for things to fall apart because that is what we deserve.

Entitlement can serve as a reference to welfare programs and the welfare state. Or to the mindset of contemporary pampered Americans who believe they are owed everything. Possibly the two are not unlinked. Citizenship, however, is not something owed to us simply because we happen to be in the right place when we were born. Even if it is granted to us automatically it does not mean that we have earned it. It could mean that those who have the authority to grant citizenship have been foolish in their legislation.

Plato and Aristotle rightly criticized democrats and their erroneous understanding of equality. Both of them believed that only the virtuous had a valid claim to rule.

Republican government, government by the many, may be the best form under circumstances for a particular community. (Republican government = polity, politeia.) (The Catholic Church has not endorsed any one form of government as being the best for all, though in recent times some clerics have tried to argue that modern mass "democracy" is best in so far as it respects human dignity and rights.) The prudent man will grasp this and will work to safeguard that constitution, for the sake of the common good.

Aristotle saw a link between republican government and martial virtue. Can we dispute that this was a feature of ancient Greece and republican Rome? Is this the reason why many early Americans identified with George Washington as the model citizen? Serving in the military seems to be an important component of civic republicanism. And yet, fewer Americans join the military or have ties to the military in some way.

Those who believe in the lie that we are 'fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here' should do their part; it is the duty of every citizen to defend his community, and if he believes his community is in danger, how can he shirk from fulfilling his duty?

Andrew Bacevich argues that we do not need the draft--but we do need to realize that our professional armed forces are shouldering an unjust burden. If there really is a GWOT, why isn't the country doing more to support it? More consumption, as some sort of wrong-headed act of defiance (look at who was promoting it), is not the answer to terrorism. While joining the armed forces may not be incumbent on all, I do advocate the restoration of local militias, and all able-bodied citizens who would claim to be such should participate.

In addition, the classical ideal of the farmer-soldier-citizen underscores the link between economic freedom and political freedom. Those who are not masters of their own lives should have no share in governing others. How many Americans are not the masters of their own lives? Granted, they are not working all the time, but how free are they to deviate from the daily patterns? It is said that the medieval serf had more leisure time than today's office drone.

How much economic freedom is necessary for a citizen? Can one become free merely through advances in tools and energy? Or is there more to economic freedom than not having to do much work? It is being the master of one's household and being able to provide for the needs of that household (or at least most of them). There is something to be said for having others labor, if that is all they can do.

Some cannot but be servants of other, because they cannot direct themselves, given their appetites or their lack of foresight. They live only for the present, and fail to understand what makes their comfort possible. (The thought that what is needed to make their life of pleasure last may not be sustainable in the long run does not enter their mind.) They are so enslaved to their pleasures and luxuries that in our political economy, they are willing wage slaves.

Aristotle reminds us that the citizens of a healthy polity need the virtue of moderation and the other virtues to be able to use leisure rightly. The virtue of courage, which is necessary for wars and securing peace, is not enough for the good life. It is true that some cannot be economically free because of the circumstances that have been forced upon them. Should they be denied citizenship as a result? But others are willing dupes of the present political economy. Perhaps they are looking to profit personally from the system, or they may be defending an abstract ideology because it is comfortable to do so.

Most Americans seem to be unwilling to make the sacrifices that are necessary for the good of society. The poor, unemployed or the middle class-- how many of them would be willing to accept a reduction in luxuries, for the sake of being their own masters in the production of goods required for daily living? (Much less for reasons of sustainability or protecting the environment.)

Given the moral degradation of the majority of Americans, the judgment that our system grants citizenship too freely follows rather quickly. Not everyone's opinion counts equally, though this may be the sort of fiction that is needed to maintain a pseudo-democracy, and not everyone should be participating in the political life of the community or of the state (or in Federal elections) . For justice to be maintained, unequals may actually have to be treated unequally. We can understand that those who commit serious crimes against others or the state may lose their right to vote. What I am writing here is nothing more than an elaboration of the general principle.

Universal franchise is a relatively recent phenomena, and may not last much longer. Who should vote? And what does voting do in a mammoth nation-state? It can seem so distant from the real exercise of authority and the actual law-making. I will have to address voting at some other time.

I would note that many so-called conservatives lack any real roots in community. They are have few or thin ties to family, community, and the local Church. They also have no clue what they are doing when they "defend free markets" and the like is to maintain the power of the existing oligarchy. Something's wrong with one's liberal education if after receiving it, one still treats people like Rush Limbaugh as serious conservative intellectuals.

Excessive American mobility, in the name of individual advancement and economic opportunity, is the enemy of community and of justice, and generally works against citizenship instead of enhancing it (in the name of choice).

Conservatism and Religion

What is the place of religion (or Christianity) within conservatism? A few years ago, Heather MacDonald sparked a discussion of whether it is possible for there to be a conservative atheist. I chanced upon this article recently:

Mark C. Henrie, Opposing Strains (from Modern Age 44:1, Winter 2002):
In The Conservative Mind (1953) Russell Kirk delineated six “principles” or “canons” of conservative thought. First among these was “belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as consciences.” The life of the political community is not a mere artifact, and human rights and duties cannot be disposed at our convenience; rather, we are responsible to the divine. And this responsibility has public consequences. Kirk went on to argue that conservatives believe “political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems,” and thus, technical or procedural fixes offer no lasting solutions.

In the introduction to his anthology, The Portable Conservative Reader, nearly thirty years later (1982) Kirk again placed a “transcendent” orientation as the first of conservative principles, observing that “conservatives generally believe . . . there exists a transcendent moral order, to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society.” He contrasted this view with liberal utilitarianism and with a philosophical radicalism that detests “theological postulates” and that attempts to conceptualize human society as just so much matter in motion. For Kirk, any genuinely conservative mind had to it a religious cast, a sense of piety, a concern, as it were, for the rights of God—though he demurred from doctrinal disputes.

More recently, however, Professor Jerry Muller, in a widely reviewed “anthology with an argument” entitled Conservatism (1997), takes a far different tack. Implicitly in his selection of texts and explicitly in his carefully argued introduction, Muller reinterprets the tradition in such a way as to leave little room for any genuinely religious dimension to conservatism “properly understood.” As with religion, so too with the other mytho-poetic elements that many have associated with the conservative mind. All “romantic” nostalgia for “lost causes” championed by such “literary” conservatives as Kirk appears as an aberration to Muller. In contrast to Kirk’s transcendent view, holding first place among Muller’s conservative principles is the prudent defense of existing human institutions based on a profound sense of the limits of reason, an “epistemic modesty” directed equally against grand ideological schemes—and against every form of religious “enthusiasm.” Conservatives, according to Muller, properly hold religion at arm’s length, and they view the prophet and the saint with suspicion.

Edward Feser responds to Heather MacDonald (One of his responses, at any rate.)

wiki: Roman citizenship, Cincinnatus
Westminster Wisdom: Livy's Cincinnatus
Google Books: A Companion to the Classical Tradition, American Republicanism: Roman Ideology in the United States