Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

"Very fun." -- J. Bottum, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

"Fabulous!"-- Warlock D.J. Prod of Didsbury

Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Friday, April 30, 2004
How Jedi are you?

:: how jedi are you? ::

Ok -- but when it came to "reward for your efforts to the cause, you wouldn't mind...", I had a real hard time choosing between (a) and (d). (Via Blogenspiel.)

The Cranky Professor shares some classic yet lesser-known C.S. Lewis quotes, here.

A former research assistant of mine, now in Pennsylvania, writes in to say:

Since you were following the PA primaries, I thought you would want to know that a few days before the election, Specter ran ads that claimed if he didn't win, Bush wouldn't either, " a vote for Specter is a vote for Bush" the ad said something like if Bush doesn't win a crucial state like PA, he won't win so vote for Specter if you want Bush to win. post-election talk says this tactic worked to get republican voters worried enough to vote Specter. just thought you might be curious.

Conservatives are also ticked at Santorum. His support may have made the difference, given that the outcome was so close. I mentioned earlier that as a matter of senatorial courtesy, same-state same-party always support each other. But there's an overlap between Toomey's donors and Santorum's donors. Santorum may have jeopardized both his reelection chances (in '06 -- which will be a bad year for Republicans anyway if Bush wins) and his hard-won reputation as the senatorial paladin of the social right.

After inexcusable delay, I've added Disputations and The Shrine of the Holy Whapping to my blogroll, under "Catholic blogs". More may follow.

Interesting article from Australia on Sensual Appeal of Worship. "This is precisely the weakness of the progressive position on liturgy - a radical incomprehension of culture or beauty that results in verbose, self-conscious rites. It is not surprising that the younger generation finds them deeply unappealing."

Takin' over!

Thursday, April 29, 2004
Explode the Code: Carl Olson and Sandra Meisel have produced The DaVinci Hoax.

Canada bans homophobic speech. Apparently, lacking a First Amendment, they can do that.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Fun with (proposed) Catholic bumper stickers at Shrine of the Holy Whapping. Come on over and think up some more.

The bad crow in The Passion

A friend writes in to say that this detail of TPOTC may come from a fresco in the Church of San Clemente in Rome. He cites us to this post; if that link doesn't work, go here and then hunt and peck, you should pardon the expression.

Specter ekes out a squeaker over conservative challenger Toomey.

Losing makes me MAD!!

(With thanks to my friend Charlie Austin, rising Wagnerian bass-baritone, whose photo as Hunding in Wagner's Die Walküre I've appropriated to illustrate my mood.)

Julia Gorin makes the case -- tongue-in-cheek, I'm fairly sure -- for incest and polygamy.

Robert Baer, ex-CIA, writes here in the WSJ on what's missing from the famous Presidential Daily Briefing: any real "intelligence", and any mention of Saudi Arabia:

In the entire document--this crown jewel of intelligence--there isn't a single mention of Saudi Arabia, the real Ground Zero of 9/11. Apparently, we had no idea suicide bombers were being recruited there or that cash was being raised for an attack on America....

There still hasn't been an indictment to come out of the Kingdom related to 9/11. Either Riyadh doesn't know who recruited the 15 hijackers and paid for 9/11, or it doesn't want to tell us. (You'll notice the 9/11 Commission tiptoed around the subject of Saudi Arabia. That's like investigating Lincoln's assassination without dipping into the Civil War.)

This Friday, the Washington Post is hosting an on-line "Viewpoint" discussion with Saudi "information officer" Adel Al-Jubeir. Readers are invited to submit "questions and comments" on "current issues affecting the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States."

The mind boggles.

"Get nuked." "Free your Christian prisoners, then die." "Your PhD-osity, sir, any comments on the T-shirts and bumper stickers that say 'Kick their ass and take their gas', which, I am reliably informed, are flying off the shelves down at the PX?"

Pat Buchanan on "The Passion and its Enemies". Oooooooh yeaaaaaah. (Via Otto.) Quite frankly, if improving your Christian life is what you're after, you'd be better off seeing TPOTC again than reading Pat's article. But hey, it's Eastertide; some pleasures can be indulged, right?

Not Mapquest: directions from Hobbiton to Mordor

Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Conversation chez Cacciaguida: examining the Chimera, in D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths

: The middle head looks like a goat.

Cacciaguida: The others look like a lion and a snake. There, it says a "serpent".

Cacciadelia: But a lion, a goat, or a serpent would never breathe fire.

Cacciaguida: A serpent might, if it's a dragon.

Cacciadelia: But dragons aren't real.

Cacciaguida: Neither is the Chimera.

Cacciadelia: True.

Sorry, but this ruling is gay. The kid in this case is all mixed up, but he has a right to poster up the place any way he wants -- just as pro-life students do -- subject only to rules against obscenity (which his signs aren't) and reasonable time/place/manner regulations, which these aren't, because they're not content-neutral. Overruled. Next case.

Pounding Fallujah -- after putting up with far too many self-appointed negotiators, bogus truces, and Marines killed by snipers inside mosques. Go get 'em.

New Vatican instruction on the Eucharist, Redemptionis Sacramentum: text here; blogged and commented here.

News headline, or Blondie lyric? Giant African snails seized from schools

Thursday, April 22, 2004
Entering the Matrix. Blog-break until Tuesday, April 27, at which point I hope I'll be popping the champagne for Pat Toomey (see post immediately below). Have a good Third Sunday of Easter.

Message to Pennsylvanians, and those who know Pennsylvanians

...especially those who care about the politics of judicial confirmations, as you should.

Please get out there next Tuesday, April 27, and vote for Rep. Pat Toomey for Senator, against incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter.

Toomey's website gives you most of the reasons. I'll just add a few:

If reelected, Specter will become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Yes, I know Grassley is senior to him, but Grassley is in line to chair the Finance Committee, which he much prefers to Judiciary.) As Specter is fervently committed to Roe v. Wade, and liberal on other issues as well, a Specter-chaired Judiciary Committee would be indistinguishable from a Democrat-majority Judiciary Committee when it comes to confirming judges.

Yes, Specter did a great job defending Clarence Thomas and getting him confirmed in 1991, and he undoubtedly earned a book of free passes for that. But -- most of those passes were used up in advance, since Specter was instrumental in torpedoing the Bork nomination in 1987. Because of Thomas, conservatives supported Specter's reelection in 1992, and gave him only weak opposition in 1998. Now it's different: the book of free passes is used up, and Toomey can win.

Refuting specific arguments:

Toomey can't win the primary: Au contraire, the race is now a statistical dead heat. In 1998, State Rep. Steve Freind challenged Specter from the right. Freind was a problematic candidate -- and even so, he got 30% of the vote. Toomey, a very strong candidate, is taking that anti-Specter base and building on it.

A conservative Republican can't win state-wide in Pennsylvania: Can you say S-a-n-t-o-r-u-m?

Santorum supports Specter: Look, you have to understand how Washington back-scratching works. Same-state same-party Senators always support each other. Santorum even supported Specter's no-hope bid for the Presidency in '00. I don't like it either, but it's part of the political ecology of the Senate. Don't imagine, however, that Santorum will be in sackcloth and ashes if Toomey beats Specter on Tuesday.

Bush supports Specter: Again, the party establishment always supports its incumbents. It's that, plus an investment (a risky one, imo) in Specter's future loyalty. The very fact that the Specter campaign had to beg for a presidential visit shows how cleary they understand that Toomey can win.

In conclusion: Pat Toomey can beat Specter in the primary, and (as Santorum shows) he can win state-wide in November. And, with Specter out, and Grassley chairing Finance, the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee will be reliable conservative Sen. Jon Kyl! And then, let the games begin!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Zenit interview with Ray Flynn, pro-life and anti-SSM Democrat, former mayor of Boston, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

He says, inter alia:

Catholics don't like to be called bigots, even if it is not true. It's easier to say nothing and not get involved.... I have had several Catholic elected officials tell me personally that if they vote against legalizing same-sex marriages and civil unions, the well-organized gay rights movement -- with the support of the liberal media -- will help defeat them in the next election. Those elected officials are not accustomed to this type of intense lobbying.

Catholics must begin to realize that our Church has some powerful enemies. "Help wanted" signs in downtown office buildings reading "No Catholics Need Apply" are no longer displayed, and convents and churches are not burned down as they once were. But a more subtle form of anti-Catholic bigotry is unfortunately still with us in the United States today just as anti-immigrant sentiment is still with us....

When I was mayor of Boston, a reporter called me the Lech Walesa of Boston politics. I was also called a John Paul II Democrat. It's too bad they had to go all the way to Poland and the Vatican to define how many millions of American Catholics like me feel today.

Happy birthday to Leonard Warren, 1911-1960, Jewish Catholic, and the greatest Italian-style baritone of all time.

As Scarpia                                           As Verdi's Macbeth

Warren died on-stage at the Met. His character that night, Don Carlo di Vargas in Verdi's La Forza del Destino, had just learned that his arch-enemy has survived a war-wound. This delights Carlo, because it means he can now kill the guy himself. At this point, a blood-vessel in Warren's brain snapped, and he fell over like a tree. His death was so quick, he didn't have time to get "out of character", so his last words ended up being those that Carlo di Vargas sings at that point in the opera: E salvo -- e salvo -- o gioia! "He is saved -- he is saved -- oh joy!"

Not such a bad way to go.

Visit The Leonard Warren Foundation, and send them money.

Remember this column? I gave it a light fisk-over here -- but now Jonathan Lee Morris has done a full-scale amphibious assault on it here!

BlurryFlurry, previously hailed here for (among other things) its lack of "excessive girlyness", has a new template: pale pink on white. Sort of like trying to read strawberry ice cream. But still worth trying!

Feast of St. Anselm "Why God Became Man" of Canterbury

Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Why dying was, in fact, His reason for living

A while back I sort-of promised you a post on the positive role of violence in Christianity, with references to Rene Girard. I haven't written this -- but someone named John Laughland, identified as one who "teaches philosophy and politics in Paris", has. He does so in this article published in Lebanon (and I don't think they mean Lebanon, PA).

Along the way, he offers rocking interpretations of the episode of the woman taken in adultery, and of the last six of the Ten Commandments:

* In dealing with the crowd accusing the woman, Our Lord transforms them into from a crowd into individuals: "Let him who is without sin...." And the crowd disperses "one by one."

* If we look at the least six Commandments in reverse order, they describe the escalation of a Girardian cycle of violence. Thus, ancient Jewish law aims at banning the conditions that require blood-sacrifice; but only the New Law, in which the Victim is utterly innocent, can fulfill this aim and provide the definitive sacrifice.

Read it.

An engaging new Catholic cultural e-zine: The New Pantagruel. See especially this takedown of Frank Turner's revisionist account of Newman's faith, by Prof. Joshua P. Hochschild of Wheaton College.

Monday, April 19, 2004
The Passion among those who've already chosen their passions

I don't know if it's strictly fair to call this the gay/culture-war take on TPOTC, but it can't be very unfair.

It's interesting to see what this writer thinks is preferable to Christ's suffering as a path to salvation (however understood). I counted two references each to alcohol, psychotropic medications, psychotherapy, and eastern religion, plus one to sex, all in the context of antidotes to what the viewer sees on the screen -- or in the Gospels. This article is plainly a cry of pain out of the depths of that urban lifestyle -- mainly gay, though not exclusively -- in which pills cover the intervals between sex, pain is nothing but an occasion of medication, The Da Vinci Code is a historical treatise, and Jesus is a mellow dude who gives seminars.

The passing put-down of Bush-voting states as "fly-overs" is scarcely more than a reflex.

Sad, really.

Headline watch

Washington Post, p. A8 ("Science Notebook"): Algae May Not Be the Answer. Good; now, I wonder what may not have been the question.

Wall Street Journal, p. B1: Study Finds Midsize Cars Are Unsafe if Broadsided by SUVs. My dear, Shermans are unsafe if broadsided by SUVs.

Something for the under-25s -- and their friends

Here is the student column on "friend-crushes" that was featured in today's Washington Post Style Section. Kind of sweet, really, and much better than the Post's piece based on it. Samples:

....But you're a writer. You can describe anything. That's what you do: pictures to words, events to words, words to even better words. But nothing seems right. More like you're afraid that if you stare at her for too long, you'll prove your parents right: that yes, your face will stick that way. But you wouldn't mind.

....You can't remember your teaching assistant's name, and you can't remember that your Puffton rent check was due four days ago, yet you remember the middle name of the kid who tripped her in fifth grade and gave her that cute little scar on her shoulder....

The volume of responses was way above what this particular college paper normally gets. Eventually the editors "had to" shut this article down to new responses. I don't think they had to -- electrons don't take up much room -- I just think they were a bit miffed that one of their writers had struck a national nerve while the others just crank out the standard pabulum of student journalism.

Daily Telegraph: Archbishops reject US cash in gay clergy row
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
(Filed: 17/04/2004)


African archbishops representing more than half the worldwide Anglican Church are to refuse millions of pounds a year from their US counterparts in protest at its first openly gay bishop....

....Many of them are disillusioned with the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to keep the worldwide Church together, and they are making preparations for a rival Church with an alternative leader.

The most likely candidate, the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, said the liberal leadership of the American Episcopal Church must be disciplined for supporting the consecration.

The archbishop, the chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), said that the Episcopal Church leadership had three months in which to "repent" or the CAPA bishops, representing about 40 million Anglicans, would feel free to take action.

More multiculturalism than many American Episcopalians bargained for, I bet.

Sunday, April 18, 2004
I know there are some Heldentenor experts who read this blog..., what did you think of the Met broadcast SIEGFRIED yesterday?

I thought Jon Fredric West was, well, good. Maybe very good. When I hear a Siegfried who's new to me, the first thing I want to know, when he makes his entrance, is -- does he have the lung power to get the job done? Will he still be alive, and with some voice left, at the end of the performance? As soon as West strode on, the answer was clearly yes. OTOH, he's no Melchior, or even Svanholm. Some of his intonation in the Forging Song consisted of what we baseball fans call "neighborhood plays". But he got through the performance in good form, and actually sounded better toward the end.

Of course I only heard it on the radio. Friends who were there said West's acting was far above the usual Siegfried standard, and that he earned the standing ovation that he got.

West was partnered with an unusual Mime -- a kid, still in his early 30s, named Gerhard Siegel. Two interesting things about him: my in-house sources say he's an astounding actor, better (apparently) than the other "character tenors" who have taken on this part at the Met recently, Heinz Zednik and Graham Clark. But even more interesting -- while filling up his engagement book with Mime at the big houses -- the Met, Covent Garden, Bayreuth -- Siegel also sings Siegfried, albeit in smaller houses. (Also Florestan, Tannhauser....)

I have never heard of a tenor who had Siegfried and Mime in his active repertory at the same time. Occasionally a superannuated Siegfried will return as Mime (like Manfred Jung -- who should have stuck to Mime all along). But I've never heard of a singer alternating between these two parts. Have you?

The rest: James Morris is still a grand singer, but his Wotan days are winding down. The wobble in his voice has gotten bad. Richard Paul Fink may be the greatest Alberich of all time: Gus Neidlinger better watch out for his crown! I'm slowly overcoming my looks-based prejudice against Jane Eaglen: she is fat, but yesterday she sounded youthful and slender. Elena Zaremba sounded luscious, Matti Salminen did his thing with predictably powerful impact; Joyce Guyer seemed a less winsome Forest Bird than recent competition, e.g. Heidi Grant Murphy.

Jimmy and the orchestra were great, great, great. They always are.


Saturday, April 17, 2004
Maria, you've gotta see her....

Hey, as attempts to conscript Blondie into Catholic poetry go, that wasn't so bad....

Anyway, skip that and go read two recently posted Marian quotes from Cardinal Newman, courtesy of the Old Oligarch here and Narwen here.

OK, who else wants to head up Hamas?

Islam and "apostasy": a report delivered by an ex-Muslim at a panel discussion at UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva on April 7. Via Dhimmi Watch.

Friday, April 16, 2004

As my friends know, I am frequently called upon
to help train young women for leadership positions.


You read me my rights and then you said
You're gone and nothing more....

Well, well -- looks like the Pittsburgh now has its own native roll-your-own "Catholic" church, to be called Christ Hope Ecumenical Catholic Church. This one's from the "left", not the "right", not that it matters. Read all about it here at The Curt Jester.

Seems Father William C. Hausen frequently announced his strident dissent from Catholic teachings from the pulpit; when he was placed on leave and told no longer to hold himself forth as a Catholic priest, he was sure that his alcoholism was only a cover for the real reason behind the disciplinary action. I sure hope he's right about that: a sozzled priest I can take; a heretical one -- ix-nay!

So his next move, natch, is to start his own church ("putting his pension at risk," the media want to make sure we know).

I call attention to the Diocese of Pittsburgh's warning to the faithful. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review: The move prompted the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to warn the outspoken priest and his potential Catholic parishioners that leaving the church means excommunication.

As I told that promising kid Dante when he came through here a few centuries ago: "Let those men who itch scratch where it burns." (Paradiso XVII 129, tr. Musa)

From Kross & Sweord: Lord Vader for President! (But see my comments.)

Thursday, April 15, 2004
Know what Nissan should produce? A new sports coupe called the "Dorma".

Cheer up -- you could be doing this.

Vatican official on "solidarity" visit to Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Apr. 14 ( - Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud arrived in Jerusalem on April 14, for a 5-day visit that is designed to show solidarity with the Christians of the Holy Land. more

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
A Mel interview at this UK site. The interviewer is mainly interested in the anti-Semitism angle, which as far as I'm concerned is so-o-o-o-o last month, but some interesting things emerge nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Lapin returns to the fray.

Now that Lent is over, I've changed my Passion links:

* I've eliminated the pictorial button. That was a link to a fansite that was actually kind of lame. I've substituted for it a non-pictorial link to the movie's main site.

* The Paul Richard quote and links to my own Passion posts are still there, but...

* I've moved the whole megillah to a lower point in my left margin, below the archives.

* I've also added links to two posts of mine dealing with Gibson's schismatic status (posts of 3/20 and 2/10). While I haven't let this issue prevent my enjoyment of the movie, neither is it one that I can let go of -- until Mel does so, by letting it be known that he has (re-)joined the Church, by means at least as public as those by which he has let it be known that he's a "Tridentine" free-lancer.

Eventually all Passion links will go, because no movie can stay front and center in our thoughts indefinitely. Before that, though, I'll probably have a few more things to say. Meantime, here's Rosalinda Celentano, competing with Norman Treigle, Sam Ramey, and others who have put the Devil on the stage for us to fear, but ultimately, to mock:

I want YOU to found your own church!

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Otto reports that Robert Fagles is about to come out with a new translation of the Aeneid. This gets me thinking about translators.

Two reservations: First, it goes without saying that translation, as such, honks. (Exceptions made for a few classic translations by independently great poets, such as Dryden's Aeneid and Plutarch.) Second, don't get me started about Dante translators -- that's another post.

Sticking just to Homer and Virgil, what would you say are the relative merits of Robert Fitzgerald (Homer & Virgil), Richmond Lattimore (Homer only), Allen Mandelbaum (Virgil only), and Fagles (Homers, and now Virgil too)?

It seems to me Fitzgerald is the most atmospheric and the most fun, but Lattimore is more literal without much sacrifice in "readability". Mandelbaum, I'm beginning to think, is always good but never the best (this would apply to his Dante too).

As for Fagles, I've heard his Iliad read (in an abridged recording) by Derek Jacobi. It sounds good, and I admire the way he gets the word "Rage" into position as the first word, accurately reflecting the original in this.

Your views?

Faint hope: The Needle Phobia Information Site.

Monday, April 12, 2004
New blogger: Jonathan Lee Morris, young Catholic Marine, blogging at Morristown.

Condi candy -- Leno lines from last week:

* I guess you all know the big story – today Condoleezza Rice testified this morning before the 9-11 commission. Or as they’re calling it in Washington – "The Passion of the Rice”.

* I read something interesting about Condoleezza Rice today. They said she was actually Methodist but became a Presbyterian. You know what that means, she’s a converted rice!

* Former President Bill Clinton didn’t watch. To this day, he still gets extremely nervous whenever a woman testifies under oath.


* Well here’s the latest forecast for Iraq, Sunni today, but tomorrow it will turn to Shiite. That’s pretty much the story, it doesn’t look good.

Via Newsmax.

You read me my rights and then you said
Blogwatch and nothing more...

The Old Oligarch reports on joining with his bishop and others to pray outside an abortion clinic, and nails the reason for that post-TPOTC silence that so many have experienced: They don't want to talk about the movie yet. They're still with the Lord.

(About being in seminary in Lincoln, NE: I believe the diocese now has its own seminary, which graces its territory alongside the FSSP seminary.)

Fr. Shane and Kari also get the "Easter Vigil high" (my term, not theirs).

Fr. Jim explains why it's lame that we call Pasch "Easter".

Summa Contra Mundum brings us "Christ is risen indeed" in lots and lots of languages.

Mark Shea comments on Lexington KY Bishop Ronald Gainer clearing out some diocesan deadwood.

The Cranky Professor explains why blogs are better than Blackboard.

Amid her Easter meditations, Eve finds the Eucharistic significance in a Blondie song. It was there all along; must have been the way Debbie sings it that made me miss it. (In the same post: why Baron Scarpia is a case of a mind's misdirected longing for God; see "hunger".)

Sunday, April 11, 2004

I'm back. I spent the Triduum and the Easter Vigil with my "sponsee" -- that is, the convert I sponsored this year.

St. Mary's in New Haven is a beautiful church under any circumstances; for me, its beauty is always enhanced by the lingering presence of many things that have happened to me there, such as my own reception into the Church, my marriage (jurisdictionally speaking, at least -- the ceremony took place elsewhere), and the baptism of Number One Son.

From yesterday foreward, St. Mary's will also be consecrated for me by the image of the glorious child whom I sponsored as a new Catholic. The light in her eyes as she walked back to the pew with me after her first Communion will be with me in one shape or another to my last hour.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Blog-break until Sunday or so. Have a blessed Triduum and Easter.

Ralph Peters, one of my favorite military analysts, asks: why did Shi'ites and Sunnis alike pull off a bloody uprising this weekend? His answer: because they can. And how did they know they can? Because we took our time reacting to the previous outrage in Fallujah.

Possible movie title for Fallujah: Bridge Over the River Euphrates. I'd rather it were A Bridge Too Far, but we can't be sure of that yet.

It isn't a poem
Non curo. Si metrum non habet, non est poema.
"I don't care. If it doesn't rhyme, it isn't
a poem."
You are a type A personality. You like bright
things, you don't call in sick to work, and you
have devastating opinions about art.

Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, I do like bright things.

This was an interesting quiz. For me, the choice between "Even the wise cannot see all things" and "You will pay the price for your lack of vision" was really hard!

Just noticed that two of my law-blog links were messed up (Lex Communis and Ninomania). They're fixed now.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004
The agony of da feet

With Holy Thursday coming up, you need to read the Old Oligarch's theological analysis of the traditional foot-washing ceremony. While it is licit to use laymen in this ritual, its meaning -- contrary to just about every homily you've ever heard about it -- is not confined to humility and "service". Rather, the original foot-washing was an integral part of Our Lord's ordination of the Apostles as priests, and ever since, the ritual has featured sacerdotal imagery and implications.

Saw The Passion of the Christ for the fourth time this evening.

You see new details each time. This time I caught:

* During the Herod scene, one of the Jewish leaders mutters something un-subtitled to another, and it sounds like it begins with "Yehuda."

* The are a bazillion ways in which the movie makes the point that Caiphas and his cronies could not count on widespread support among the Jews whom they supposedly lead -- in other words, "the Jews" didn't kill Jesus, even if Annas and Caiphas did. (And even as to that, see John 10:17-18 and my comments on it in the next bullet-point but one.) This implicates the "bribery" bit: Caiphas's men have to pay to make sure their reliable hacks fill up the courtyard (first Caiphas's, later Pilate's) and crowd out the others. Those others are represented by the Jewish woman who pleads with the passing Roman sentries outside Caiphas's court: "They've arrested him! In secret! At night!" And of course Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both in priestly garb just like the "bad guys", make their opposition pretty clear.

* During the first flagellation, the one with the reeds or rattan canes, the Jewish leaders who are present are visibly shaken; one of them turns away and leaves. Then Caiphas says something un-subtitled; since he begins to depart as he says it, I assume it's "Let's go" or something like that. None of the Jewish leaders are present for the flagellation with the fishhook-pronged maces.

* Jesus brings the second flagellation on Himself, by standing up after the first one, to the amazement of the Romans. ("Credere non possum! -- Mutate flagellum!") This ties in with the flashback, much later, to John 10:17-18 ("I lay down my man taketh it away from me...."), which is shown by a white-fade between Him preaching those words and Him seeing the priests watching Him. Clear message: "These guys think they're killing me, but they're not: they're carrying out a divine plan to which I have freely consented." Being High Priest will do that to you: even when you try to be really evil, you end up prophesying truthfully. See John 11:49-52.

* The bird -- not the bad crow, but the beautiful bird in the Pilate's court scene -- appears at the moment when Caiphas is giving Pilate the religious side of the charges against Jesus. Jesus clearly notices the bird, and is encouraged by it. (The Holy Spirit? The first verbal reference to the sending of the H.S. comes in a Last Supper flashback near the end of the scourging.)

* Is it real or is it a good-cop/bad-cop act? Caiphas (I'm using the Douay spelling) gives Pilate the religious charges against Jesus, which he must know Pilate won't care about. Annas -- more menacing than Caiphas -- makes a "Let me handle this, boy" gesture towards Caiphas (his son-in-law) and proceeds to tell Pilate the political side of the case against Jesus -- the side Pilate cares about, because it implicates Caesar's authority in Judea, and therefore the career (and perhaps neck) of Caesar's top representative on the spot.

* I've noticed it before, but I've got to mention it: I get a kick out of Caiphas's facial reaction to Barabbas's smell, as he waves Barabbas out of his sight. In fact I think Mattia Sbragia (Caiphas) is da bomb: he has great dignity, a wide range of expression, and a beautiful speaking voice. (Here's his website: lots of pictures, and also his measurements, in case you need to make a costume for him. Seems he's been a staple of Italian stage and film since Caesar was a cadet.)

* Mary awakens abruptly at the exact moment of the first blow delivered to Jesus by one of the arresting guards. The solidarity of "Team Mary" -- Mary Immaculate, Mary Not-So-Immaculate, and John -- is one of my favorite visual motifs in the picture.

* I was also very moved this time by "Team Simon": the bond that springs up between Jesus and Simon of Cyrene, shown in their looks at each other, as the carry the cross together. For me this illustrates what St. Josemaria wrote about this particular Station of the Cross (the fifth):

In the whole context of the Passion, this help does not add up to very much. But for Jesus, a gesure, a little bit of love is enough for him to pour out His grace bountifully upon the soul of his friend.

Think not only of Simon's physical assistance, but also his repeated quiet encouragements: "Almost there", "not much further", etc. It's a strange and brief friendship, but it changed Simon's life: how else explain St. Mark's obvious assumption that his readers will be so familiar with Simon's sons that he can identify Simon simply as "the father of Alexander and Rufus" (Mark 15:21)? St. Josemaria says:

Years later, Simon's sons, Christians by then, will be known and held in high esteem among their brothers in the faith. And it all started with this unexpected meeting with the Cross.

* I know that the Hebrew for "no" is "lo". In Aramaic is sounds more like "la". "Never", it seems, is "liut." This time I paid less attention to the subtitles, intending to give myself an immersion lesson in Aramaic. One of the effects of this was that when the dialogue switched to Latin, the rush of sudden (relative) comprehension made me forget momentarily that they weren't speaking English. (One of my faculty colleagues, a Jewish-Christian classicist, says that when he gets the DVD, he's going to watch it with the subtitles suppressed.)

* I've mentioned before that Pilate starts his conversation with Jesus in Aramaic, but that Jesus responds in Latin, and in Latin they continue. But the second time Pilate asks Jesus whether He is a king (corresponding to John 18:37, as distinct from John 18:33), Pilate asks the question twice: first in Aramaic, then in Latin.

One more thing: I'm not a "cheap cry" at movies, and I didn't lose it at any of my first three viewings. This time I did,
twice, both times at highly Marian moments: when Our Lady tearfully turns away from the second, more severe scourging and prays that her Son will allow this to end; and then at The Moment, the one where everyone loses it: the Fourth Station of the Cross -- Jesus Meets His Blessed Mother -- "Bari! [Son!] I'm here!" "Mother, behold, I make all things new!"

Monday, April 05, 2004

Omigosh -- a Catholic teen blogueuse who likes T.S. Eliot and The Passion? Why wasn't I told sooner? Her name (so Elinor informs us) is Kari, her blog is called BlurryFlurry, it's in my blogroll already, and if the names make you suspect excessive girlyness, just visit her and see.


I love British Tory MP, Catholic convert, and former Home Office minister Ann Widdecombe! (Here's her web-page, The Widdy-Web.)

Recent Words of Widdsdom (or, Ann's Bans):

Daily Telegraph, 3/30/04:
The Tories' first pro-gay summit ran into trouble yesterday when only five MPs turned up and Ann Widdecombe attacked it as "misguided".

Miss Widdecombe, a former Home Office minister, said the Westminster meeting with voluntary groups and young homosexuals sent out precisely the wrong message about the party's values.

"Here we are, supposedly the party of the family: we are not offering a family summit; we are not offering a fathers-separated-from-children summit. What we are offering is a homosexual summit. I am not going to say that there may not be one or two problems we should be looking at. But it is a misguided order of priorities that we are sending out to the electorate."

She also has a real butt-kicker in The New Statesman about The Passion, which earlier today I could bring up on the screen, but now TNS is insisting that money change hands before they'll let me see it again. So I'll just summarize it:

Look, I (Ann W.) have taken heat for defending Ariel Sharon when some of you were heading for the tall grass, so don't shake the A-word at me. And I say, grow up. Not that I'm into apologies for misdeeds by one's ethnic or religious forebears -- on the contrary, I think they're dorky -- but no one has an absolute exemption against having those misdeeds recalled when relevant to a story that is worth telling on other grounds. I'm sorry the 1st century Sanhedrin acted the way it did, but I can't accept that this means Christians can't tell the story of the Passion in public.

That's only an approximation; the real thing is punchier.