Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Interference from Those Pesky Bishops!

In light of the previous post in which scientists argue the merits and dangers of 'irrational' Bishops spreading lies, evidence to support their charges comes from the Diocese of San Francisco. It seems Archbishop Niederauer is preaching ignorance, hate and suspicion of science by decrying the use of the technology that allows people to engage in healthy aesthetic dialogue.

Below are a few highlights as reported in the Catholic San Francisco.

Describing what he sees as an electronic tsunami of pornography, Archbishop George H. Niederauer told a Utah based anti pornography organization that pornography is evil because it debases the priceless worth and dignity of each human being and the gift of human sexuality given by a God who shares his loving, creative power with us....

Every computer terminal is its pipeline, and cell phones and other hand held devices, many of them marketed to children and young people, literally deliver pornography everywhere, to anyone, the Archbishop of San Francisco said in his keynote address....

We have all heard the discouraging numbers, he said, noting research shows there are 68 million Internet search engine requests for porn sites every day, that 70 percent of 18-24 year old men visit porn sites in a typical month, that 90 percent of eight to 16 year olds have viewed porn on line, and that the average age of a childs first exposure to pornography on the Internet is 11....

However, he said, What should motivate us most profoundly is not the amount of pornography there is but the kind of harm it does. Pornography assaults human dignity and commodifies people and human sexuality. Porn starves the human soul in its spiritual dimension....

Archbishop Niederauer pointed out the late Pope John Paul II had observed that the opposite of love is not hate, but use....
The whole article is here. The complete text of Archbishop Niederauer's speech can be downloaded (pdf) here.

Should Science Ally With Religion? Be Reasonable!

Oh those altruistic scientists! This is from the Guardian in the UK.

Speaking at a debate at the Guardian Hay festival, Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal who heads the Royal Society, said that science needed as many allies as it could find in the current climate. "If we give the impression that science is hostile to even mainstream religion, it will be more difficult to combat the kinds of anti-science sentiments that are really important," he said. "We need people like that as allies in dealing with extreme fundamentalism."

His fellow panellists, evolutionists Richard Dawkins and Steve Jones, disagreed. Prof Dawkins said that, though he had cooperated with the recently-retired Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, to complain about allowing creationists to set up schools, he urged a limit. "If we are too friendly to nice, decent bishops, we run the risk of buying into the fiction that there's something virtuous about believing things because of faith rather than because of evidence. We run the risk of betraying scientific enlightenment."

Bishops themselves never killed anybody, but possibly made the world safer for "people who do kill people by extolling the virtues of faith as opposed to reason and evidence".

Prof Jones discussed the problems he comes across when teaching students with Islamic backgrounds. "To a man and to a woman, there are parts of science they will not accept. "That means that, in their early lives, they have been told deliberate lies by people who, I'm sure, know they are deliberate lies. I don't care how charming they are, I don't care how pleasant they are, these people are evil.

"What's true for imams is, more or less, true for bishops."
Read the whole article here.

One wonders where Professors Jones and Dawkins uncovered evidence of "evil" and "virtuous". That Dawkins actually asserts "extolling the virtues of faith" as the impetus driving murders would be ludicrous if not for the many who follow his lead unreflectively (i.e., unreasonably).

I'd love to read their replies to the Holy Father's book, Values in a Time of Upheaval.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bioethics and Society

In fact, the article referenced in this post is not about bioethics and society per se, however, it does speak to the ethical framework at the heart of the relativistic culture. It is by Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, a Catholic priest, PhD and Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

Father Tadeusz writes a monthly column called Making Sense out of Bioethics, and this article was his April 2007 submission. His style is crisp and to the point, and he helps us see the moral imperative at the center of many ethical issues, including, abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization, euthanasia, and a host of others. Below is the opening paragraph to his column entry, Recapturing the Soul of Bioethics.

Modern bioethics seems to be going through a kind of identity crisis. With ethicists available for hire, drug companies and biotech firms have easy access to "experts" who can provide them with the veneer of respectability if they decide to head in the direction of unethical science. Erwin Chargaff, a pioneer in the field of biochemistry, once quipped that, "Bioethics didn't become an issue until ethics started being breached. Bioethics is an excuse to allow everything that is unethical." One common approach to allowing the unethical is to claim that, "We have already made certain choices, and now we really must move on to the next step - we must yield to the inexorable progress of science." Rather than examining and rejecting certain poor choices that may have been made in prior years, and trying to regain lost ground, bioethicists today unwittingly continue to grease the slippery slopes by their lack of courage in disavowing some of the unethical practices they have aided and abetted in the past.
Look for Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk's work in your diocesan newspaper, or bookmark his page at the NCBC website.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Holy and Glorious Pentecost Sunday

Little Entrance Hymn

Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and chant the praise of your might.

O Holy Counselor, save us who sing to You: Alleluia!

Troparion of the Feast in Tone Eight

Blessed are You, O Christ our God, who have filled the fishermen with wisdom by sending down the Holy Spirit upon them and who, through them, have united the world. Glory to You, O Lover of mankind!

Kontakion of the Feast in Tone Eight

When the Most High came down and confused the tongues (in Babel), He divided the nations; but when He distributed the tongues of fire at Pentecost, He called all men to unity. Wherefore, we glorify the Holy Spirit with one accord.

As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia!

The Reading from the Acts of the Apostles

In those days: When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God."

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St John

At that time: On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, "If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, `Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. When they heard these words, some of the people said, "This is really the prophet." Others said, "This is the Christ." But some said, "Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. The officers then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why did you not bring him?" The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this man!" The Pharisees answered them, "Are you led astray, you also? Have any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, who do not know the law, are accursed." Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, "Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?" They replied, "Are you from Galilee too? Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee." Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Hirmos (Megalynarion) in Tone Four

Hail, O Queen, glory of virgins and mothers: for your praise is beyond the eloquence of the most cultured tongues, and the wonderful manner in which you gave birth to Christ throws every intelligence into amazement. Wherefore, we the faithful magnify you with one accord.


Your Good Spirit shall guide me on level ground. Alleluia!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Benedict's Jesus

I have stopped all other pleasure reading to concentrate on the theological masterpiece of the decade. This post is intended to give you a glimpse of what will be remembered as one of the most important works of the twenty first century. The book in question is so straightforward one could read it through in a weekend; and yet it is so profound that one will want to savor every paragraph.

Reading Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth is a most humbling experience. After reading the foreword, I realized that all my theological and intellectual posturing is mere hubris compared to the thought of this truly great mind. After reading the introduction, I was certain that I must have squandered my entire academic life in the face of such precise theological prose. After reading the first chapter, I began to wonder if I had ever really read the Scriptures or encountered Jesus Christ before. In this post I will focus solely on the Foreword.

One would assume the book to be a huge theological tome of sophisticated argumentation. Benedict is arguably one of the greatest minds of the last century having an intellect capable of dissecting the premises and fallacies of even the most challenging treatises. Yet, this is the same Benedict whose only Encyclical to date is Deus Caritas Est, one of the most readable and uplifting affirmations of the Christian message since John Chrysostom.

It has been said that people came to see John Paul the Great but they come to listen to Benedict. He is a teacher; not in the stodgy sense of dry academia, rather as one who passionately believes in his subject, who has respect and love for his students, and who has the gift to explain his subject so that every listener goes away refreshed, enlightened and enriched in their humanity. This is the Benedict speaking in Jesus of Nazareth.

In the foreword, the Holy Father states his intentions to present a reflection on Jesus to counter the dominant historical-critical scholarship of the last century. He notes truthfully and simply that these approaches "have produced a common result: the impression that we have very little certain knowledge of Jesus and that only at a later stage did faith in his divinity shape the image we have of him." (p. xii) Benedict, on the other hand, offers a perspective that "sees Jesus in light of his communion with the Father, which is the true center of his personality; without it, we cannot understand him at all, and it is from this center that he makes himself present to us still today." (p. xiv) He will not jettison the historical-critical method; he will utilize it while recognizing that "it does not exhaust the interpretive task for someone who sees the biblical writings as a single corpus of Holy Scriptures inspired by God." (p. xvi) It is a tool; an important tool, but only a tool.

Benedict proposes a "canonical exegesis" which views the individual books of the Scriptures as part of a whole. This uniative approach recognizes "that any human utterance of a certain weight contains more than the author may have been immediately aware of at the time." (p. xix) In this context we see the reality of inspiration, the power of the word to speak in a living dynamic context. The Scriptures have a life that confronts us and transfigures us when we approach them from the perspective of faith. It is God who speaks through the Scriptures with a voice as real as the voices of the writers of its individual books. Thus, Benedict asserts, "I trust the Gospels." (p. xxi)

I believe that this Jesus - the Jesus of the Gospels - is a historically plausible and convincing figure. Unless there had been something extraordinary in what happened, unless the person and words of Jesus radially surpassed the hopes and expectations of the time, there is no way to explain why he was crucified or why he made such an impact. (p. xxii)
Jesus is precisely who he claims to be, the Son of God taught by the Church, the Saviour. This faith and trust in Jesus as proclaimed in the Scriptures does not require a rejection of historical-critical scholarship. Rather, this theological tool can serve to enhance our appreciation of the Scriptures and the Jesus who is revealed in their pages. It is in this context that Jesus of Nazareth is written.

And it gets better with every page.

I wonder how the New York Times will take it when this book becomes the number one best seller of the summer (and yes, I know there's a Harry Potter book coming out).

Wait for it!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Catholic World News on Atheist Contribution

Catholic World News has a short but interesting report on an atheist giving a large donation to the Archdiocese of New York.

New York, May. 24, 2007 ( - The New York archdiocese has received a record-breaking gift of $22.5 million from an atheist.

Robert Wilson, a retired financier, has given the sum-- the largest single donation ever recorded by the Church in New York-- to a program that will pay tuition for needy children attending New York's parochial schools.

Explaining his decision to make the grant to a Catholic charity, Wilson pointed out that his money would be used to pay for the education of children, rather than for specifically religious purposes.

While he is not religious, Wilson indicated a deep respect for the Catholic faith. "Let's face it," he told a reporter: "without the Roman Catholic Church there would be no Western civilization."
Lest anyone think this quote from Mr Wilson is merely a compliment, I would recommend How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, available from Amazon.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sandro Magister Highlights Papal Theme for Brazil and Beyond

Italian Sandro Magister is one of the world's most insightful commentators on the Church. His comments from Tuesday on the Pope's recent trip to Brazil address an important theme of the Holy Father's message to South America that also has resonance for the Church in general. Below are a few highlights. Click here for the whole article and text of the speech in question.

ROMA, May 15, 2007 – Among the twelve speeches, homilies, messages, and greetings pronounced by Benedict XVI during his four-day trip to Brazil, the one most keenly awaited was the inaugural address for the fifth conference of the bishops' conference of Latin American and the Caribbean, in Aparecida.

But the discourse that will be remembered in the future as the one most revealing of the pope's objectives was another. It was the one he delivered to the bishops of Brazil in the cathedral of Sao Paolo, at the end of Vespers on Friday, May 11.


All of the instructions that the pope gave to the Brazilian bishops following the address descend from this foundation. Benedict XVI's clear intention is that of reestablishing Jesus, true God and true man, as the center of the Latin American Church: a Church that, in his judgment, has in recent decades strayed too far into political territory, under the influence of liberation theology.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ecumenical Patriarch Stresses Centrality of Liturgy

The revamped Byzantine Catholic Church in America website is up and running. It's a stunner - Bravo! Check out the site here, and don't forget to bookmark it; it's a keeper!

The excellently-designed news section includes remarks from Patriarch Bartholomaios I of Constantinople given to the Orientale Lumen Conference meeting in Fairfax, Virginia. A few highlights are given below.

Istanbul & Fairfax, VA - 18 May 2007 - At the opening session of the Second Orientale Lumen EuroEast Conference held last week in Istanbul, His All Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople, welcomed and addressed clergy and laity from several Orthodox and Catholic Churches, gathered from two continents and eight countries.


In his remarks, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew applauded the work of the Conference, and said: “your own presence and participation … further confirms our belief that all of us, each from our own position in the Body of Christ, must reach out to our fellow-Christians in an effort to obey the will and fulfill the commandment of Our Lord, ‘that we [his disciples] may be one. (John 17:11)’”

The Patriarch emphasized the primacy of liturgy in the church: “It is in liturgy that all aspects of Church faith and spirituality, of Church life and practice, of pastoral ministry and canon law, derive their essential source and find their ultimate significance.”
The whole article may be found here.

Orthodox Bishop sounds same warning as Holy Father

When last the Eastern and Western Churches faced a common foe, the results were less than efficacious. Political intrigue led to the severing of ties and an estrangement that continues to this day.

Thanks to mass communication and the realities of history in the twentieth century, there is a glimmer of hope that the two side may now more readily come together to fight the current foes, morally relativistic political movements and the remnants of the "Enlightenment".

May. 18, 2007 ( - The Russian Orthodox prelate, speaking at a meeting of European religious leaders, has said that European leaders should work to eradicate anti-Christian bias, as well as hostility toward other faiths.

"European leaders, while opposing anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other phobias, often forget about the numerous occasions of Christianophobia and anti-Christian acts," said Bishop Hilarion of Vienna.

The Orthodox bishop went on to stress the same argument that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have made: that European unity depends on its Christian heritage. "Throwing away Europe’s Christian roots is unacceptable, having more than a historical significance," Bishop Hilarion said. "It is a matter of the spiritual and moral identity of Europe.”

Hat tip to Catholic World News.

Thoughts on the Beckwith Conversion

Francis Beckwith's return to the Catholic Church has sparked a firestorm of discussion amongst Protestants and Catholics alike. features an article by David M Howard Jr, the nephew of former Protestant, now Catholic, Thomas Howard, who "crossed the Tiber" some years ago. The younger Mr Howard has an interesting comment about converts and their devotion to the Faith.

A common element among these converts is a strong commitment to the Catechism and papal encyclicals. These Catholics are not generally in sympathy with the theologically liberal wing of the American Catholic Church but are enthusiastic supporters of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI's emphasis on orthodox teaching and practice. In short, they have more in common theologically with evangelicals than with liberal Catholics, and evangelicals themselves, in many respects, have more in common with traditional Catholics than with mainline Protestants. Especially on social and political issues, there is much room for common cause.

Who hasn't heard of "convert fever"? The term is often bandied about as a longsuffering dismissal of those who come to a faith and actually show joyous adherence to what that faith actually teaches. There are instances wherein someone new to the Faith hasn't 'lived the Faith' long enough to truly understand the nuances and levels of importance within the 'web of faith', to take on what we in the Byzantine Tradition call the Phronima of the Church. But often the term "convert fever" is merely an attempt to belittle not just the fervor of the believer but also the Faith itself. It is a charge used by those who wish to keep the title but throw out the substance that makes the title meaningful.

Let us pray for all converts to the Catholic Faith that they may enlighten not only others to come to the Church, but also members of the Church to truly come home to the Faith!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Feast of the Ascension

Today is the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord, one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Byzantine Christian Tradition. May our Lord increase our faith as we contemplate the great mercy of His redemption that brings our humanity fully into the presence of His Divine Throne!

A Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains,and shall be raised above the hills;and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say:"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,to the house of the God of Jacob;that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths."For out of Zion shall go forth the law,and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

A Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

Go through, go through the gates,prepare the way for the people;build up, build up the highway,clear it of stones,lift up an ensign over the peoples. Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth:Say to the daughter of Zion,"Behold, your salvation comes;behold, his reward is with him,and his recompense before him." And they shall be called The holy people,The redeemed of the LORD;and you shall be called Sought out,a city not forsaken. Who is this that comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,he that is glorious in his apparel,marching in the greatness of his strength?"It is I, announcing vindication,mighty to save." Why is thy apparel red,and thy garments like his that treads in the wine press? "I have trodden the wine press alone,and from the peoples no one was with me;I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath;their lifeblood is sprinkled upon my garments,and I have stained all my raiment. I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD,the praises of the LORD,according to all that the LORD has granted us,and the great goodness to the house of Israel which he has granted them according to his mercy,according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, Surely they are my people,sons who will not deal falsely;and he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted,and the angel of his presence saved them;in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

A Reading from the Book of the Prophet Zechariah

Behold, a day of the LORD is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft upon its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Han'anel to the king's wine presses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall be no more curse; Jerusalem shall dwell in security.

Great Vespers, Feast of the Ascension

Troparion of the Ascension of our Lord in Tone Four

Christ our God who gloriously ascended into heaven and gladdened your disciples with the power of the Holy Spirit: through your blessing, You confirmed them in their belief that You are truly the Son of God, the Redeemer of the World.

Kontakion of the Ascension of our Lord in Tone Six

After fulfilling for us your plan of redemption and joining the things of earth with those of heaven, O Christ our God, You gloriously ascended without abandoning us, but remained with us forever and reassured all who love You by telling them: Behold, I am with you; no one has power against you.

The Reading from the Acts of the Apostles

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Sama'ria and to the end of the earth." And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away.

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Luke

At that time: Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have." And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high." Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.

Hirmos of the Ascension in Tone Five

O you who have given birth in time to the One whom no limit can hold, and who thus have become the Mother of God in a manner beyond understanding and beyond words: we the faithful magnify you in unison.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Numbers Don't Lie ... Well, maybe...

I’ve been somewhat amused at the views of the secular media regarding the Pope’s visit to Brazil. Most interesting have been the apparent attempts to characterize the visit as a failure. Indicative of this is the “low turn out” comments in various media.

Note the following excerpts* (added emphases, mine) about the turn out for Sunday's Mass “near Sao Paulo” at the Basilica in Aparecida.

Although about 200,000 people attended Pope Benedict’s final Mass near Sao Paulo on Sunday, it was less than half the number predicted by Church officials. Analysts say the low turnout reflects the waning influence of the Church and the weaker star appeal of this Pope, compared to his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
The Telegraph

The pope called the region the ``continent of hope'' during a Sunday Mass before 150,000 faithful in front of the mammoth basilica of Aparecida home to the nation's patron saint, a black Virgin Mary.

But the turnout fell far short of the 400,000 to 500,000 worshippers local organizers hoped would show up for Benedict's last big public event of the papal tour, his longest since becoming pope two years ago.

The Guardian

``This is the faith that has made Latin America the 'continent of hope,''' Benedict told the crowd of nearly 150,000 gathered outside the mammoth basilica of Aparecida.

The turnout fell far short of the 400,000 to 500,000 worshippers local organizers had hoped would show up for Benedict's last public event of his five-day trip in Brazil, the largest Roman Catholic nation in the world.

The Guardian (again)
In case you failed to understand the impact of these numbers on the Pope's standings for the popularity contest, the following report gives you numbers for comparison!

The crowds that the pope drew during his visit were large, but not overwhelming by Brazilian standards. His largest event -- an outdoor Mass on Friday morning -- drew 600,000 to 800,000, short of the 1 million expected. Sunday's Mass in Aparecida, about 100 miles from Sao Paulo, also drew a far smaller crowd than the half-million expected.

In contrast, police estimated that an annual parade organized by evangelical Protestant churches last year drew 1 million, a gay pride parade in Sao Paulo drew about 3 million, and a free Rolling Stones concert in Rio de Janeiro last year drew an estimated 1.5 million spectators.

Washington Post

On Sunday morning, only a third of the 500,000 people anticipated by church officials attended an open-air Mass led by the pope in front of the city’s massive basilica, known as the world’s largest devoted to the Virgin Mary.
McClatchy Washington Bureau

Only about 150,000 people came to this rural Brazilian town for Benedict's final Mass. The open-air celebration took place at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida, a shrine to a black Virgin Mary who is the country's patron saint.

The pope told the crowd that only faith in God and the church can give them hope: "Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not an economic system." Flags from various Latin American countries dotted the crowd, which was boisterous but a small fraction of what organizers had predicted. Nuns in dark habits held aloft icons of the Madonna and entire families wore matching T-shirts blazoned with pictures of saints. And this being Brazil, there were plenty of bare mid-rifts, low-cut tank tops and tight pants.

Los Angeles Times

Emerson Rossi, 50, who walked 400 kilometers from his hometown of Jundiai to attend Sunday's closing mass in Aparecida, as part of his church group Caminho da Fe (Walk of Faith), summed up Benedict's challenge of being in the shadow of his predecessor. "John Paul was a phenomenon. [Benedict] is normal," he said. "John Paul was a charismatic, he was about emotions. We Brazilians are about emotions." The concluding mass drew just 150,000 worshipers, far short of the hundreds of thousand of pilgrims who arrive at the same shrine for the annual mass to commemorate the Virgin Mary.
Time Magazine

The Brazilian Army estimated the crowd that filled the patio alongside the massive basilica here at 150,000 people, far short of the one million that Vatican Radio had predicted.
International Herald Tribune
Oh dear! Only 150,000 to 200,000 travelled 100 miles to a shrine to join the Holy Father for Mass!

And the man who walked 400 Kilometers, probably would not have come if the distance had been 405 kilometers. (He was just out for his morning constitutional anyway!)

And that there were many who obviously ignored the dress-code indicates there must have been a bunch of those young whipper-snappers present! (Hey, don't they only count as 3/5 of an adult?)

And the Washington Post puts the nails in the coffin by revealing that the Mass on Friday was attended by only "600,000 to 800,000", which was "short of the 1 million expected", and which makes the Sunday turnout seem even worse!!!

I wonder how these reporters would have 'spun' Woodstock! Obviously, the Hendrix performance exposes Woodstock as a failure that couldn't attract a good-sized crowd. What a letdown! Very few in attendance and they were so terribly messy!

* Hat Tip to Catholic World News, who originally linked to all of these stories!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Young Person's Commentary From You Tube

I don't know who the young man/woman is who made this video over at You Tube. The 'graphic' retelling of history is somewhat loose in its details, however it is an amusing and thought-provoking commentary on the divisions between the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Check it out.

PS, His/her name is also very amusing!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Report of Expected Veto

The Cybercast News Service reports that President Bush will likely veto the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 currently being discussed in the US House of Representatives. The report indicates that the proposed legislation would stiffen penalties for certain crimes committed on the basis of "actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability."

The bill's sponsor states that the bill seeks "to provide basic rights and protections for individuals so they are protected from assaults based on their sexual orientation." The report also notes that the sponsor claims that 54% of hate crimes are based on race, 17% on "religious bias" and 14% on "sexual orientation bias".

However, the report quotes sources who argue that the bill is both unnecessary and dubious from a constitutional standpoint. The main objection to the bill presented in the report is that state and local law enforcement already possess sufficient means to prosecute these crimes. Further, the bill creates inequity in meting of retribution for similar crimes.
"Under this bill justice will no longer be equal but depend on the race, sex, sexual orientation, disability or status of the victim .... For example, criminals who kill a homosexual or a transsexual will be punished more harshly than criminals who kill a police officer, members of the military, a child, a senior citizen or any other person."

What the report does not significantly address, however, is that the bill would also allow for the prosecution of those who affirm their faith traditions in regard to certain behaviors. For example, Church Teaching on chastity entails condemnation of homosexual activities. Under the bill, a sermon stating that homosexuality is sinful could be prosecuted.

Thus, the bill would de facto outlaw the assertion that immutable values exist. In criminalizing speech that could broadly be characterized as promoting "sexual orientation bias" the bill would in fact attempt to silence judgments based on assent to the existence of those truths and values.

The problem, of course, is that hatred is rightly to be condemned, but it cannot be outlawed. Hate crimes are crimes of passion, disordered passion; and disordered passions are matters that involve the soul, immutable values and sin. Hatred requires spiritual rehabilitation, which can only come through recognition of the infinite value of every human life.

From the concrete reality of the value of human life, every human life, objective judgments regarding the moral values of human actions are derived. When the one who hates recognizes that the one who is hated possesses innate value the distinction between hatred of the person and disapproval of the act emerges. Recognition of this distinction allows the drive toward aggression to subside, replaced by filial concern for the well being of the other.

This is a rational process. Irrationality gives way to reason, love dissolves hatred and the passions are restored to proper order.

Objection: Undoubtedly, as the debate about this bill continues the charge will be raised that those who oppose it are engaged in discrimination.

To this charge, I would plead guilty.

For it is a hollow charge that would view any and all discrimination as inherently equal and equally wrong. Discrimination based on attributes is wrong. Acts are distinct from attributes, even as accidental attributes do not touch on the essence of a thing. (cf The Physics of Aristotle)

To discriminate (judge) that an act is unacceptable, wrong or sinful is quite different from the irrational judgment that a man is in some way inferior due to an accidental attribute, e.g., pigmentation.

This bill confuses, or refuses to recognize, the distinction between the legitimacy of judgments in regard to acts, properly admissible for moral evaluation, versus the illegitimacy of judgments grounded in a fallacious (because erroneously perceived as substantial) condemnation of accidental attributes. Thus the bill contributes to the cult of relativism, which decays the fabric of society and degrades the human person.

The president is correct to oppose Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007.

UPDATE: I understand that the bill as finally passed by the House excluded language that would have criminalized religous speech. However, the bill warrants observation and prayer until the Senate has completed their version and the conference bill is finalized.