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.

E-mail me

Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Blog-break until April 5.

Nell' norte, il Vescovo Loverde; nell' sur, il Vescovo DiLorenzo. Che pensi, paesani Virginiani?

New Bishop of Richmond, Va.

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo

* Takes over on May 24.

* Currently Bishop of Honolulu, a problem diocese when he was assigned there in 1994. I don't know whether/how it's improved since.

* Before that, he was Auxiliary Bishop of Scranton, PA, and his principal consecrator as bishop was former Scranton Bishop James Timlin. This is good. Timlin was a conservative bishop and Scranton was a conservative diocese. Timlin was noted for his hospitality toward the Tridentine Rite, so southern Virginia Tridheads should be optimistic.

* He was born in Philadelphia, ordained priest there, and was for a while rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. This is considered one of the best seminaries in the States, and it trained some very fine priests whom I knew in the Arlington Diocese, though I believe they studied there well after DiLorenzo's tenure as rector.

* A new diocese for southeastern Virginia remains a possibility, but apparently it is not on the front burner.

It may be very misleading to form one's first impressions of a bishop based on what details the Associated Press chooses to report about his first press conference, but fwiw, here's what they say:

DiLorenzo, 61, flashed a Hawaiian "hang loose" sign as he entered the news conference announcing his appointment and greeted everyone with an "aloha."

He said he plans to work to restore faith in the Catholic Church, which has been beset by scandals involving sexual abuse by priests, saying that "we all have our family problems" and that the church shouldn't be judged by the actions of a few.

DiLorenzo also said he will reach out to people who have strayed from the church, making sure parishes are warm and welcoming places and enacting other outreach strategies.

"We invite inactive and alienated Catholics to come home," he said.


DiLorenzo has been Honolulu's bishop since 1994, after serving as the diocese's apostolic administrator the previous year. Before that, he was auxiliary bishop of the Scranton, Pa., diocese since 1988.

He said the Pope had no agenda when he appointed him. But, he said, his top priority is to uphold the church's anti-abortion stance and to promote social justice issues with parishioners and government representatives.

"If the value of life is not upheld, then the foundation is going to fall apart," DiLorenzo said.

Edited to add: Here are some things -- mostly good -- that I found while exploring Bishop DiLorenzo's current diocesan website:

* Here is a list of book required in every rectory in Hawaii. Most are bland and official, but note one by Gabe Hauk, liturgical terrorist extraordinaire.

* Here is his directive permitting the Tridentine Mass in Hawaii.

* His liturgy office published this defense of standing during the Eucharistic prayer and Communion, but it is not clear that this is diocesan policy. All of his directives on liturgical posture seem to have do with integration (or not) of "native" Hawaiian customs.

* His liturgy office also republished the 1997 Vatican instruction against participation of the non-ordained in certain liturgical functions.

* Here he reiterates the restrictions on the use of general absolution.

* The sacraments section of the diocesan website includes Cardinal Meyer's letter to bishops encouraging use of the Tridentine indult.

* The diocesan homepage is dominated by a beautiful photo of a stone Stabat Mater scene: Crucifix with traditional corpus (i.e. not "flying off"), with Mary and St. John.

* The site also contains links to two Catholic homeschooling organizations, a link to Catholic World Report (very sound), and other good links. None to the NCReporter or anything comparable.

* The Social Ministry section of the website contains stuff about actually helping people who are poor, not about political organizing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Victorian-Gothic meets pre-Raphaelite meets Italian post-verismo decadent: Yes, I've just listened once again to Montemezzi's L'AMORE DEI TRE RE (The Love of Three Kings). Like Strauss's ELEKTRA, this one really puts the "fun" in "dysfunctional"!

Let's imagine some similarly titled operas on different themes:

Last day of the month: L'AMORE DI PAY DAY

Opera about King Kong: L'AMORE DI FAY WRAY

Standing by the Millo Pole during intermission at any ol' performance at the Met: L'AMORE DI TRES GAY

You-know-what was #1 at British box offices this past weekend; it even busted the zombies. Who ya gonna call?

I'm the Baroque

Good, I can live happily with this result, especially after an otherwise unsympathetic critic identified the Baroque (he called it the Counter-Reformation, but in art, it's the same thing) as the dominant aesthetic of The Passion of the Christ. Mel has cited Caravaggio as his dominant visual inspiration.

which art movement are you?

this quiz was made by Caitlin

"Baroque Art emerged in Europe around 1600 as a reaction against the intricate and formulaic Mannerist style which dominated the Late Renaissance." ( Baroque Art is fairly realistic but is often willing to smudge the realism in favor of theatricality and the emotional pull that is its trademark. You're most likely a creative, talented emotional person who likes attention. Although it could all just be a show.
Famous Baroquers (there are lots): Rembrandt, Rubens, Caravaggio, and You.

As a medievalist, I found it broadening to hear Charles Ryder declare, on being introduced to the art-world of Brideshead Castle:

...[T]hough in opinion I had made that easy leap, characteristic of my generation, from the puritanism of Ruskin to the puritanism of Roger Fry, my sentiments at heart were insular and medieval.

This was my conversion
[!] to the baroque ["ba-rock", as Jeremy Irons pronounces it]. Here under that high and insolent dome, under those tricky ceilings [re TPOTC, read: "special-effect skies"]; here, as I passed through those arches and broken pediments to the pillared shade beyond and sat, hour by hour, before the fountain, probing its shadows, tracing its lingering echoes, rejoicing in all its clustered feats of daring and invention, I felt a whole new system of nerves alive within me, as though the water that spurted and bubbled among its stones was indeed a life-giving spring.

Ah, the eros of Catholic art!

I must admit that I would not have been disappointed if this quiz had identified me with the pre-Raphaelites. I've always been entranced by their rediscovery of Dante, by Wilde's Salome, and by their use of 19th century techniques to bring medieval myth to life (one could say the same of Wagner's operas).

Plus, I've long had in the back of mind a naughty reaction to Dorothy Sayers's rather prim put-down, in her introduction to her translation of Purgatorio, of what she calls "an erotic mysticism borrowed from the Pre-Raphaelites." I do verily believe I've done such borrowing myself, when using the Vita Nuova as a template for a memoir.

Monday, March 29, 2004
Juifs vifs ajudicatifs. (Quelle partie de "non" ne comprennent-ils pas?)

Zenit: John Paul II Seeks Ever Stronger Ties Between Jews and Church

Receives American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Audience

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 29, 2004 ( John Paul II proposed ever stronger bonds between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church, as he received members of an American group in audience.

Speaking in English, the Pope today welcomed the president and members of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and said their visit "is yet another sign of the bonds of friendship between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church, bonds which we hope will grow ever stronger."

Since 1914, the JDC has served as the overseas arm of the American Jewish community. Its mission is to serve Jews in need throughout the world, according to the organization's Web page (

Joint distribution, huh? The ties are getting stronger already. Hey, man, is it me, or did that money, like, fly over to Judas real slow?

Robert "Jihad Watch" Spencer reacts to CAIR's "We respect Jesus" ad. Worthwhile but not fun reading. (What does happen to those Christian girls in Egypt who, according to the Coptic patriarch, get lured into upstairs rooms with promises of a "prize"?)

Sunday, March 28, 2004
Eve has discovered one of opera's most unforgettable villains.

A doppia mira tendo il voler,
né il capo del ribelle
è la più preziosa!
Ah di quegli occhi vittoriosi
veder la fiamma
illanguidir con spasimo d'amor,
fra le mie braccia, illanguidir d'amor.
L'uno al capestro,
l'altra fra le mie braccia!

-- TOSCA (Act I, finale)

Saturday, March 27, 2004 “Issa’s” (Jesus’s) crucifix fascinates today’s Islamic intellectuals. Of course, they distinguish between the "real" Jesus, who let others die in his place on the Cross because, you know, Allah would never actually let one his prophets suffer; and the "mythological" Jesus, who suffered, died, and was buried. But as to this "mythological" Jesus, this article says: "In Italy, for example, the crucifix in public places makes some Muslims intolerant and blasphemous. Elsewhere in the Islamic world, the Jesus who died on the cross and resurrected, the Jesus of Catholics, fascinates religious Muslims – above all poets, writers and contemporary intellectuals." AsiaNews reports; you decide.

Some have chosen to fight. Having elected their fate, they are being engaged and destroyed.

-- Official statement of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, reporting on its counter-insurgency activity in Fallujah, Iraq

Attention, medievalists. This blog once appeared on a list of blogs by medievalists, but with the caveat that this Cacc' dude doesn't actually write about the Middle Ages much. "He don't know me bewwy well, do he?" Be that as it may, I'm going to redress the imbalance today.

Criminal intent in the moral plan of the Divine Comedy

There's this law prof at NYU, Paul Chevigny. He has this article, From Betrayal to Violence: Dante's Inferno and the Social Construction of Crime, 26 Law & Soc.Inquiry 787 (2001). I read it with great eagerness to note its many errors, since you're pretty well tipped that there'll be a lot of 'em as soon as you see those words "social construction".

Well here's his deal. Modern legal codes consider violence to be worse than fraud. Kill someone, you get 20 to life, or maybe the drip. Commit, say, the crime of "false pretenses" (full name: "obtaining property by false pretenses"), and you're talking more in the 5-to-10 range, tops. We simply don't view crimes against property as being as bad as crimes against the person; and crimes that have fraud as part of their mens rea (the mental component of criminal blameworthiness) are almost always crimes against property.

But the plan of the Inferno is different: following a pattern that can be traced to Aristole's Ethics, book 6, via Cicero's De Officiis, Dante held that fraud is worse than violence, because it is a misuse of a specifically human faculty, reason. Animals can be incontinent (the sins punished in circles two through five) or violent (circles six and seven), but only man can practice fraud. See Inf. XI 22-27

So far, no controversy. We could minimize any controversy about the disconnect between the Common Law and the Inferno by attributing it to the distinction between divine and human justice; sins, not crimes, are punished in the Inferno. (You're probably asking at this point: never mind the Common Law -- what did either local Florentine law, or the rediscovered Roman Law, say about the mens rea of murder? Good question. I've been looking for the answer for some time. If any of you know, tip me off, will you?)

But Chevigny's take is that Dante's scheme reflects a pre-modern society lacking modern law-enforcement mechanisms. Such societies, insofar as they maintain order at all, are built above all on trust. Relationships between persons, institutions, parties, etc. -- and not state power -- are what we mainly rely on to make sure murder is kept to a minimum. Thus, a fraud is worse than a murderer, because while a murderer kills, a fraud undermines the system that prevents thousands of potential murderers from killing. And of course, the more strongly you're tied to someone else by bonds of fealty, the worse the fraud is: hence the difference between "simple fraud" in all its varieties (8th circle) and "compound fraud" (9th).

A very interesting theory, and it may contain some truth. But some objections occur to me. First, trust isn't any less important when we do have state power and a coercive system for restraining violent crime. This why marriage is important: it's a society-wide framework for trust, and when it breaks down, violence rises. Chevigny's theory of course would predict this; I quarrel not so much with the theory as with Chevigny's confinement of it to pre-modern societies.

Second, there's an interesting fact about the 8th and 9th circles: in the 8th (simple fraud, or fraud directed at the world in general), there are very few killers. You could say Ulysses (Canto XXVI) causes the death of his crew, and Guido da Montefeltro (Canto XXVII) is chargeable with any killings that Boniface's forces may have carried out at Palestrina while actingon Guido's advice. But within the 8th circle these are the exceptions. The sinners in the lowest of the 8th circle's ten bolgie (pouches; Dorothy Sayers reaches for an archaic English word that may be cognate with the Italian bolgia and calls them "bowges") are not killers: they are falsifiers, including opera's favorite identity-thief Gianni Schicchi; also falsifiers of metals and coinage (causing inflation was molto baddo conduct in Dante's view).

In the 9th circle, by contrast, practically everyone is a killer. Those who didn't directly stick a pike in someone, or lock a family in tower and starve them, at any rate contributed very directly, by their treason, to slaughters of their fellow-citizens. The sin punished here is "compound fraud" -- fraud against those who had special reason to trust you -- but in every case, that fraud either consisted of murder or contributed directly to it. Consider the last three sinners before we see Satan himself: Brutus and Cassius betrayed Caesar -- by killing him. Judas betrayed Christ -- knowingly aiding those who intended to get him killed.

Simple fraud is potentially separable from homicide; compound fraud, it appears, is not.

Now, it would be going too far to say, ah ha, Dante is just like a lawyer after all, viewing violence as worse than simple fraud. That claim is contradicted by the doctrine laid down in Inf. XI 22-45 and exemplified in Cantos XII (murderers) and XIII (suicides). (The concept of "violence against God" and "violence against Nature" are fascinating to me, but I'm not talking about those today.)

But I'm intrigued, contra Chevigny, with the similarities between the killers of the 9th circle and those of the 6th. About 1800, the state of Pennsylvania, by legislation, modified its Common Law doctrine on murder by introducing the idea of "degrees" of murder. Intent to kill would still suffice for a conviction for 2nd degree murder. But there's intent to kill and then there's intent to kill: sometimes that intent is accompanied by premeditation, or by a heightened degree of icy malevolence evidenced by, most typically, poisoning or "lying in wait" for the victim.

I hope this is starting to sound to you like Dante's idea of compound fraud. It does to me. Not a perfect match, of course: under the degree system, if you plan someone's death over a period of months, then lie in wait for your victim, then kill him, you're guilty of 1st degree murder, even though you may not have had any special personal links to the victim, which is what it would take to make you guilty of compound fraud for Dante.

But -- every killer in the 9th circle would be guilty of 1st degree murder if tried for murder under a Pennsylvania-type system (which most states in this country now have). At least I'd be delighted to take those cases as prosecutor.

Final note: the usual situation in which a defendant would be guilty of 1st degree murder without having a personal bond with his victim would the hired-killer situation -- and Dante deals with this, elliptically, while describing the simoniacs (XIX 49-51).

So. What do people think?

Friday, March 26, 2004

Bishop Robinson headline contest

Angry Gay Anglican Bishop Defends Duck Hunt With Archbishop Of Canterbury

Gay Anglican Bishop Ordains First Openly Muslim Anglican Priest

Gay Anglican Bishop visits Ecumenical Patriarch, looks forward to Turkish Bath

Spring Break Shocker -- Gay Anglican Bishop parties in Cancun with Dalai Lama

Gay Anglican Bishop Takes Queen's Rook

Gay Anglican bishop gets bent out of shape over new pew

...and many more outbreaks of diversity and appropriateness here at Midwest Conservative Journal. (Rule of the game: words "gay Anglican bishop" had to be in it). Via Blithering Idiot, a conservative Anglican. (Hey, I didn't name his blog!)

And from Rome: this is more like it.

Perhaps Archbishops of Canterbury are gifted with a mutant form of infallibilty: it kicks in after they retire.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Oral argument in the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance

Comments on the merits here.

Comments here on the issue of standing (i.e., the right to bring the case, the "what's it to ya" question) -- and Justice Souter's whacked-out twist on traditional parental-rights doctrine.

Biotech high school in Virginia

Sounds like the N.I.C.E. from That Hideous Strength may be opening up in Loudoun County, Va., but in the form of a specialized high school. Story here.

The W.Post adds that students at this school will come for classes every other day, attending their home high schools for English, history and other courses, as well as for extracurricular activities and sports.

And, since it will become obvious back at their "home high schools" that these nerds are the ones who will be designing everyone else's grandchildren, they may finally be able to get dates.

Today's Passion cut-n-paste

After several paragraphs of galloping nit-wittedness, this writer -- an English Catholic journalist writing in the Torygraph -- suddenly turns spot on:

One always hesitates before dragging September 11 into an article, but the question has to be asked: is this film - and, more importantly, its worldwide reception - the product of a Christian culture under assault?

Radical Islam despises the Coca-Cola culture of the West, but it hates orthodox Christianity even more.

The imprisonment, torture and murder of Christian missionaries in Islamic countries, shamefully brushed aside by the Western media, has been gathering pace for years; it has created a poisonously anti-Christian mindset in the Arab world which, while perhaps not directly inspiring the attacks on New York and Washington, explains the equivocal response of many Muslims to the outrage.

Meanwhile, Christians have found themselves dodging bullets from enemies closer to home: from Jewish-American academics who appear to be trying to shift the blame for the Holocaust from the Nazis to the Vatican; from militant secularists who want to use the paedophile scandals to demolish the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church; from snooty journalists who routinely portray evangelical Protestants as fundamentalist crazies.
Retaliatory terrorism is obviously out of the question: our faith forbids it.
["Oh, I'm not sure I'd say that...!" -- St. Bernard of Clairvaux, guest commentator]...

Modern church services are far too cringingly apologetic to change anyone's opinion, so that leaves only the most powerful medium of the 21st century: entertainment. Born-again Christians were the first to recognise its potential, though their evangelistic novels and thrillers were directed at too specialist an audience to make much impact on the wider society.

Enter Mel Gibson....

This curiosity [about the movie] has been stimulated, ironically, by the very lobbyists who have declared premature victory in the culture wars: secularists and multi-culturalists. Nominal Christians say to themselves: if these ghastly people hate our inherited faith so much, there must be something going for it. And so they ring up the Odeon to book tickets for Saturday night.

And I haven't even quoted the most interesting line in the article. See if you can find it.

Do teenagers blog too much? Some public schools evidently think so, and they're doing something about it -- in their typically ham-handed, incompetent way. A youthful friend writes on her blog (private, so no link -- sorry!):

Sitting here in the library doing absolutely nothing. I wanted to blog because I have some time, but the school filters won't let me into blogger, so I just decided to type it up, save it in my email and post it when I get home.

Well, Mr. School, that sure worked, didn'it? I remember Eve saying once that the Internet treats censorship as damage and steers around it. Apparently so. Note the perfect insouciance: not "I got around the filters" or "I shafted the system" -- just "so I just decided to type it up...." Mr. School, not only did you fail to stop the blogueuse -- you failed even to impress her!

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

An Iraqi Catholic bishop, on American evangelicals doing their thing out there, and where they should do it:

"Do we really need this huge amount of Bibles? Do they think we don't know Jesus Christ? Let them go to the Muslim areas and distribute their Bibles. If they do it in Muslim neighborhoods, the Muslims will kill them." (Via Dappled Things.)

But, of course, Muslims respect and revere Jesus, right? (Poster link via Otto da Fe.)

I believe you belong in Pride and Prejudice; a
world of satire and true love. A world where
everything is crystal clear to the reader, and
yet where new things seem to be happening all
the time. You belong in a world where your
free-thought puts you above the silly masses,
and where bright eyes and intelligence are
enough to attract the arrogant
millionaire/prejudiced young woman of your

Which Classic Novel do You Belong In?
brought to you by Quizilla

One of the questions involved the opening of Darcy's letter to Elizabeth (ch. 35), one of the greatest prose passages ever written. But they left out the best line:

"On this subject I have nothing more to say, no other apology to offer. If I have wounded your sister's feelings, it was unknowingly done; and though the motives which governed me may to you very naturally appear insufficient, I have not yet learnt to condemn them."

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Saw Braveheart for the first time last night. (Does it show in my "Death to 'Saruman'" post earlier today?) It's great. Not as great as The Passion, but....

I watched it with my 13-year-old son, who had seen it before. I noticed some of what certain Passion commentators call "Gibsonisms". In fact Caccia di Gregorio and I (he's seen The Passion too) couldn't help smiling, quite inappropriately, at the execution scene, when the ghost of Murron glides among the spectators, just like....

Anyway: very moving, very inspiring, very patriarchal, very reactionary, very great. We need a lot more movies like that.

Do stop the presses: the screenwriter of The Last Temptation of Christ finds The Passion of the Christ "disturbing"! Such concern for the spiritual and emotional well-being of the general public -- kinda gets you right here, you know?

A propos, John Leo says: Christians are very much aware that they are increasingly held in contempt by so many in the elites and the arts community. This treatment is everywhere, and runs from anti-Christian plays and movies to dung-and-porn-covered madonnas and attempts to degrade Christians symbols and rituals, such as the ridiculous and swishy Jesus figures in gay parades....

...In this context, the hundreds of millions of dollars that "The Passion of the Christ" is ringing up amount to a large cultural statement. The columnist Mark Steyn nicely jabbed at the elites this way: "All those liberal columnists who champion the necessity of brave transgressive artists when it comes to giving us a horny Jesus (The Last Temptation of Christ), a gay Jesus (the Broadway play Corpus Christi), or a Jesus floating in the artist's urine ("Piss Christ") have finally discovered a Jesus it would be grossly irresponsible to show to the public."

Death to "Saruman"!

The killing of Sheikh Ahmed "Saruman" Yassin is a great step forward for civilization. The man was a mastermind of mass murder. As with any radical Islamist, Jews were his first target, and Christians were next.

His worldwide following was massive, as documented by Jihad Watch, which deploys the phrase "tiny minority" with soft irony. His death has already diminished Arafat's standing among his erstwhile allies (see DEBKAfile).

Meanwhile, the Holy See (not any named prince of the Church, just "the Holy See" as such) has condemned the killing. For me personally, such a display of quasi-dhimmitude by Christ's own Church is more embarrassing than a truckloack of fudgepucking priests. Let's pray that the next Holy Father will be from some place -- like, say, Nigeria -- where people have a clue about Islam.

A day or so ago I shared with you this line from Cacciaguida's life story, as narrated by him to Dante in Paradiso XV. That was in Mandelbaum's translation; here it is again, in relevant part, this time in Musa's translation, just for variety. Speaking of his Crusade alongside Emperor Conrad, Cacciaguida says:

"Along with him I fought against the evil
of that false faith whose followers usurp --
only because your Shepherds sin -- your rights."

Par. XV 142-144

I conclude by asking for prayers for the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, and for the armed forces of the United States and her allies.

Monday, March 22, 2004
One lucky Christian! (Oh and Abe -- press-release this!)

incredibly jewish
You're incredibly Jewish!

How Jewish are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, March 21, 2004
Conversation chez Cacciaguida: second collection

: Let's see what the second collection envelope is this week. Hmm -- "Bishops' Overseas Appeal."

Elinor: Naa. They have more taste than that overseas.

Cacciaguida: But some of them may need some overseas appeals when they've exhausted their domestic ones.

The Passion meets the Darwin Awards. (Actually, this guy says he hasn't seen The Passion; and he doesn't technically qualify for a Darwin Award either, as he failed to remove himself from the gene pool.) (Via Not So Quiet Catholic Corner.)

Two U.S. Marines killed in Iraq

"In later years I served the Emperor
Conrad -- and my good works so gained his favor
that he gave me the girdle of his knighthood.

I followed him to war against the evil
of that law whose adherents have usurped --
this, through your Pastors' fault -- your just possessions.

There, by that execrable race, I was
set free from fetters of this erring world,
the love of which defiles so many souls;

From martyrdom I came unto this peace."

-- Paradiso XV 139-148 (tr. Mandelbaum)

Saturday, March 20, 2004
The Old Oligarch is impressed by two things about The Passion that also impressed me: the beautiful rendition of the Fourth Station of Cross ("My son --" "Mother, behold, I make all things new!"); and the strange quiet that descends on one for at least the rest of the day after seeing the movie, as finally, after years of trying, one sees the events of everyday life with the detachment and the supernatural, Christ-centered perspective that one has been trying to attain for years.

It's not a substitute for a retreat -- y'all should go on a good retreat too (write me if you need a connection here) -- but it has some of the same effects.

Subtitle this!

This story from contains a fair amount of piffle, but it also purports to offer something no one else has brought to the table in a long time: facts (or alleged facts) about the nature and extent of Mel Gibson's schism.

The article says in relevant part:

Mel Gibson is widely known in Traditionalist circles and has never made a secret of his religious beliefs: "I go to an all-pre-Vatican II Latin Mass," he told the USA Today newspaper two years ago. "There was a lot of talk, particularly in the Sixties, of 'wow, we’ve got to change with the times.' But the Creator instituted something very specific, and we can’t just go change it."

Gibson does not belong to any of the larger Traditionalist groupings, but to an independent congregation, with some 70 members, called the Holy Family. Originally, most of the congregation attended Mass at another chapel which was then taken over by the Society of St Pius X. Gibson and others left in protest though the reasons for the split are obscure. Gibson then came up with $2.8 million to build and maintain a new Mission-style church complex in a little valley in the mountains north-west of Los Angeles, near Malibu Beach. According to public financial records, Gibson is its chief executive officer and its sole benefactor.

Emphasis added. They're right? They're wrong? Anyone know? Is "the Holy Family" authorized in any way by the Holy See, as some trad chapels are or claim to be? If not, is it then in the same position as the SSPX pre-1988, that is, disobedient but not schismatic? Of course, friends don't let friends go to "disobedient" chapels either, but if this bunch is not formally schismatic, that should be taken into account.

Friday, March 19, 2004
She's doin' it again

Looked at the Washington Post Style Section today, page C5, and thought, so now who is it who's looking like Zorak? Surely Kate Winslet can't pull that one off any more!

Well -- danged if it wasn't Kate Winslet! The picture, it turned out, was from her new flick with Jim Carrey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. (From one of the non-red-dyed-hair scenes.)

Solemnity of St. Joseph

Go here for more St. Joseph clip art.

Thursday, March 18, 2004
Great new blog on matters liturgical: Liturgiam Autenticam, by Not A Liturgist. Full of links to relevant church documents. (Hat-tip to The Curt Jester.)

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa's recent Lenten homily before the Holy Father: Getting the balance right on the who-killed question. Excerpts:

"The doctrine of the Church knows only one sin that is transmitted by heredity from father to son, original sin.

"True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.

"In this there is a certain convergence with the Hebrew tradition of the past itself. One thing emerges from the news of the death of Jesus, present in the Talmud and in other Jewish sources -- however belated and historically contradictory: The Jewish tradition has never denied the participation of the authorities of the time in the condemnation of Christ. It has not based its defense on the denial of the fact but rather on denying that the condemnation from the Jewish point of view was unjust and that it constituted an offense.

"Perhaps, as believers, it is necessary to go beyond the affirmation of the non-culpability of the Jewish people and to see in the unjust suffering endured by them in history something that places them on the side of the suffering Servant of God and, therefore, for us Christians, on the side of Jesus.

"Edith Stein had understood in this sense the tragedy that was under way for her and her people in Hitler's Germany: 'There, under the cross, is understood the destiny of the People of God. Reflect: those who know that this is the cross of Christ have the duty to take it upon themselves, on behalf of all others.'"

Responding to Mel Gibson's plans to make a movie about the heroic Maccabees, and their battles that culminate in the events of Hanukkah and the victory of the Jews over their Greco-Persian oppressors, Abe Foxman says: "In his hands we may wind up losing."

Well, Abe knows from losing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Gibson planning movie about the Maccabees

Delighted to read this, 'cause I've been thinking ever since The Passion opened that this would be a natural next step: a movie where the Jews are unambiguously the heroes -- in fact, where they're the Scots in a sort of Bible Braveheart! That multiple martyrdom scene in 2 Maccabees 7 -- will he groove on that or what!

So let it be written; so let it be done:

You're Egypt!

Curator of ancient mystical secrets, your life on the surface is fairly
typical these days.  Though you are in denial about more things than most people.
 Nevertheless, you're trying to convince people that you're safe despite your more
volatile and unstable times that seem to be behind you.  You like cats a whole lot.
 You'd probably really appreciate The Blue

the Country Quiz at the href="">Blue Pyramid

New York Post review of the Met's new SALOME

From all I hear, the production is Eurotrashy, but not oppressively so. The utter nonsense that the Met made of Busoni's DOKTOR FAUST with its borrowed production a couple of years ago -- that was Eurotrash. Oh, and the Graham Vick travesty of TROVATORE -- major Eurotrash. But this new SALOME, while it sounds a touch trendy (mixing costumes from different periods is very hot these days), seems pleasantly free of look-ma-I'm-directing touches. And no, a split-second of full-frontal does not count as such: if anything, it's a nod to tradition.

And Mattila sounded fantastic: everyone agrees on that.

Speedy recovery to Siegfried Jerusalem, the nearly-retired and much-beloved Heldentenor who was supposed to sing Herod but was indisposed on opening night. (Allan Glassman stepped in for him, and did fine.)

Still no word on whether costuming the five Jews as Hasidim will prove "controversial", given the blatant mockery that the opera makes out of their brief religious debate.

Edited to add: The world's best opera critic is Martin Bernheimer. Unlike me, Martin actually saw this production -- and his Eurotrash-o-meter spun out of control. His negative take is here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Lost cause. (What I wonder is, where did they get the videos? Probably computer-generated.)

And speaking of SALOME...

...a critic makes these remarks apropos of a new production in Baltimore:

For all the railing against the opera's lurid title character and her cranial craving, there weren't a lot of complaints about the potentially offensive portrayal of Jews in the opera. As the Jews argue various religious points and dispute the Baptist's prophet status, [composer Richard] Strauss piles most of their lines on top of each other to create a cacophony that tries Herod's patience. (In Wilde's play [on which the opera is directly based], they at least get to speak one at a time, and with some eloquence.)

Didn't I say exactly that, here?

From what I hear, the Met's new production, which premiered last night, costumes the Five Jews as Hasidim. Hardly the way to salve open wounds, I'd have thought. Whatever.

Wasington Post Tech News headline: EU Likely to Order Microsoft to Unbundle

Hell with Microsoft, how 'bout Karita Mattila?

AP: U.S. officials, who decline to discuss specifics of the Spanish investigation....

NNNNNobody expects the Spanish investigation!

Least of all now, after Spanish voters have demonstrated the Al Qaeda can give them orders by blowing up a bunch of them.

Conversation chez Cacciaguida

Elinor: Now I know why I like your beard: it makes you look like Sean Connery in Finding Forrester.

Cacciaguida: I thought it made me look like Mattia Sbragia in The Passion.

Monday, March 15, 2004
Wall St. Journal: anti-contraception Methodist minister says the Pill made gay marriage inevitable. I don't agree that the battle's not worth fighting, but apart from that, he's right. His analysis of the biological logic of marriage presents the Gilder/Gallagher/E.Tushnet theory in a pithy condensed form.

Sunday, March 14, 2004
Continuing on from the Spain post just below...

...maybe the new Cave of Covadonga is somewhere in the U.S.A. Also from AP via Fox:

"The Passion" lifted Hollywood to its third-straight uptick in revenues after a long slump in January and February. The top 12 movies grossed $104.1 million, up 15 percent from the same weekend last year.

Before "The Passion" opened, Hollywood revenue was running 7 percent behind last year's. Revenues now are 3 to 4 percent ahead of 2003's, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

"'The Passion' has single-handedly made what was turning out to be a pretty lousy year into a really good year so far," Dergarabedian said.

Playing in 3,221 theaters, "The Passion" averaged $9,830 a cinema, a huge number for a movie in its third weekend. "Secret Window" averaged $6,296 in 3,018 theaters, "Agent Cody Banks" did $2,691 in 2,973 cinemas and "Spartan" averaged $2,440 in 832 locations.

Starring Jim Caviezel as Christ, "The Passion" continues to draw well among church groups that helped make it a religious blockbuster, but the film is packing in much broader audiences, said Newmarket's Schwartz.

"It's a large cross-section of America," Schwartz said. "It's not just church groups going at this point. It's way beyond that."

Full story here. Something epochal is going on.

Saturday, March 13, 2004
Eve goes epigrammatic. My favorite: "Consider the daffodil. And while you're doing that, I'll be over here, looking through your stuff."

Christianity Today: Mel explains how he characterized Satan in the movie, from a technical standpoint ("The actor's face is symmetric, beautiful in a certain sense, but not completely. For example, we shaved her eyebrows. Then we shot her almost in slow motion so you don't see her blink—that's not normal") and also a symbolic one. He also discusses the "ugly baby".

Click here for Barbara Nicolosi's narrative of Mel getting into an argument with a fundy preacher over the "ugly baby".

Friday, March 12, 2004
DEBKAfile carries these headlines on its current opening page:

DEBKAfile terrorist experts find strong case against al Qaeda alone or with ally and points to advance warnings. In tape aired last October Bin Laden threatened to punish Spain for backing Bush.

In 20 subsequent fatwas al Qaeda called for liberation of Andalusia and Granada wrested from Muslim rule by Crusaders in late 15th century. Spain was second target after Istanbul where caliphate fell in World War 1, Italy is third for being center of heresy (Vatican).

Al Qaeda leaders undecided on next stage, whether to target all Europe or use continent as springboard against America.

See also this article on Al Qaeda-ETA alliance, via Jihad Watch.

Al Qaeda letter could herald new U.S. attack
Fri 12 March, 2004 08:23
BANGKOK (Reuters) - A letter in Arabic claiming responsibility for the Madrid train bombings on behalf of al Qaeda has reinforced fears of another imminent attack on the United States, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge says.

Islamists consider Spain as belonging to the heart of Dar-al-Islam. They have never accepted the legitimacy of their expulsion in 1492, nor, of course, of the gradual 700-year Reconquest that preceded it. That gives them a problem with people like, say, me, who have never accepted the legitimacy of their invasion of Spain in 711. (And no, they weren't just looking for coffee and a paper!)

Btw -- read the linked Reuters piece, and then tell me: what's up with referring to this attack as "guerrilla" rather than "terrorist"? Does Reuters's stylebook hold that terrorism becomes guerrilla warfare as soon as it's established to be Islamic? (Hat-tip to LGF for that point.)

Thursday, March 11, 2004
Evangelical journalist Matt Labash goes to the movies, finds Christ -- and Norm Linsky. The term "heart-warming" is icky, but I'm half-tempted to use it without irony about Matt's piece. Thanks to The Weekly Standard for running it (and who says the Jewish media are anti-Christian?!)

Passion time again: sacrifice and sacraments

It's funny how often critics focus on the most distinctively Christian aspects of The Passion of the Christ -- I mean, its incarnational and sacramental aspects -- in order to argue, not just that it's bad, but that it's un-Christian. Just assume Manicheanism, and a lot of their criticisms then flow naturally. E.g. Brian Johnson writing in Macleans:

[W]hat's most astonishing about The Passion is that it's so luridly secular. Gibson has made a movie about flesh, not spirit -- flesh that's kicked, beaten, flayed, punctured and lacerated for what seems like an eternity.

Ew, flesh -- eeeewwww! We want spirit! We're pure spirits! (Btw, that's a funny expression in this context: "seems like an etenity." It was precisely an eternal debt that was being paid.) He goes on:

Those sacramental items, the body and the blood, acquire a whole new meaning, one that owes more to Hollywood splatter movies than the Gospels.

Sacraments are just symbols, see? Imply that there's a bodily reality to them, and you're like Freddy or something. John 6:60 is being reenacted for us. He goes on:

Anyone stepping into this movie from another planet, knowing nothing about Christianity, would assume it's a barbaric cult of blood sacrifice.

Yes, the blood sacrifice is pretty essential to the whole scheme. It was anticipated from early-on: Isaac survives Gen. 22 not because no sacrifice is necessary, but because God substitutes a ram, and promises later to substitute a "lamb." Animal sacrifice was, by God's direct (though temporary) command, part of Israel's everyday worship. Jews and Christians agree so far.

Those sacrifices were was preparation for the one and final blood sacrifice (1 Cor. 5:7; Hebrews 10:8-10). Obviously, Jews disagree at this point, but Catholics, Protestants (at least, "evangelicals" and others rooted in "historical orthodoxy") and Eastern Orthodox folks are all still on board. Thereafter, that one sacrifice is made available to us throughout history in the Mass; Protestants are off the wagon at this point, but what I'm saying is still the consensus of Catholics, Eastern Orthos (they call it "Divine Liturgy"), and even a handful of peel-me-off-the-ceiling Anglicans. (No they don't call it "high tea"! Stop being mean!)

So the question is, what's with Mr. Johnson that he should be so shocked that Christianity involves blood sacrifice? Has he been hanging out exclusively with "liberal Christians", those who validate every day the old maxim that liberalism is Christianity without the Cross?

Then there's Jonathan Rosenbaum who writes in The Chicago Reader:

The charges of anti-Semitism and homophobia being hurled at the movie seem too narrow; its general disgust for humanity is so unrelenting that the military-sounding drums at the end seem to be welcoming the apocalypse. If I were a Christian, I'd be appalled to have this primitive and pornographic bloodbath presume to speak for me.

1. Welcoming the apocalypse is hardly an un-Christian sentiment. I myself may not always do it quite as intensely as Elinor, but there's no doubt e.g. that "Maranatha!" ("Come, Lord!") was a liturgical theme of the earliest Christians, and that they did not mean by it "come over for some stir-fry and a movie."

2. Using the word "pornographic" in this context -- and it's happening all over the media -- is very irresponsible. Whatever the definitional problems surrounding the term, it always has to do with misuse of the sexual power; and, needless to say, no such activity occurs in The Passion, use or misuse. The reason I say such use of the word is irresponsible is that as the word gets applied to more things that have nothing to do with sex, it gets correspondingly withdrawn from things that deserve the term because they do exploit the misuse of the sexual power. (Visit Catholic Ragemonkey here for an example.) And that's bad for the men who get addicted to it and for the women whom they victimize.

3. Your canons of "appalled"-ness are simply a critique of Christianity masquerading as sympathy for supposedly misrepresented Christians. If Joe Critic sees a movie in which scholarly Jews are sedulously studying the Torah, instead of partying and whatnot, and if Joe then writes that "if I were Jewish I'd be appalled at this stereotyping of Jews as pious bookworms," I trust no one would miss Joe's real implication: a not-too-subtle bashing of tradition-focused Jews. (For the record, I myself love pious bookworms, Jewish or Christian.)

So don't go being "appalled" on my behalf. I'm tickled pink that the message is getting out. I wish the messenger were in communion with the Church, but I'm still glad the message is getting out.

Thanks to for all of the above cites.


Please pray for the dead and wounded. Obviously, still unclear whether this is ETA, or Al-Qaeda, or both, or whether the difference really matters any more.

Today's Daily Torygraph says:
Anglicanism on brink of schism over gay 'marriage'
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

Worldwide Anglicanism edged closer to disintegration yesterday after the liberal Canadian Church defied calls for restraint and paved the way for homosexual "marriages".
Although illicit gay blessings are widespread in the Anglican Church, such a vote would be seen as the first clear endorsement of the practice by an entire province.

It would represent a fresh blow to the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

So Anglicanism splits over what is or is not a valid marriage. What goes around comes around.

Planned Parenthood hires a "chaplain" (Hat-tip to LifeNews)

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Oh, good.

Oh, all right, just one picture from L.A.'s production of DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN

This is one of my favorite moments -- when the Nurse gets her come-uppance. The Spirit-Messenger has just told her that her human-life-hating ways are not, as she had thought, the will of Keikobad, the Spirit-King for whom she nominally works. In fact, the still-shadowless Empress (Keikobad's daughter) is now in his very presence, facing a searing test of generosity that she will pass; while the Nurse is to be banished, to live forever among the humans she hates.

SPIRIT-MESSENGER: Up, boat: take this woman down from the Moon Mountains to the world of Men!

NURSE: Gnawing fire be in their bones!

SPIRIT-MESSENGER: Rant as you like: what befalls you is according to the law.

(The boat sails away with the Nurse.)

James Creswell as the Spirit-Messenger;
Doris Soffel as the Nurse

"He'd be better off shoveling snow" --
Richard Strauss on Arnold Schoenberg

I did NOT forget my parents' anniversary!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004
DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, as designed by David Hockney, Los Angeles Opera

Great pictures -- too many to post. Click here.

"Want Norns? Go to Bayreuth." (Or the Met.)

Because of the length (relative to other operas) of Wagner's four-opera cycle THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG, a fashion has emerged among marginal opera troupes of doing scaled-down versions. This abominable trend is ably spoofed in this review.

Finale of DAS RHEINGOLD, first of the RING operas:
The gods prepare to cross the rainbow bridge into Valhalla.
Metropolitan Opera production -- no scale-downs here!

Click here for a comic-book version of THE RING. (Not scaled-down, as far as I can tell.)

USA Today: Muslims see new opposition to building mosques since 9/11


Actually, when you read the thing, you find out that, in the New Jersey case, "the local zoning board unanimously approved the mosque plan after their attorney told them that there was no legal reason to reject it." Persecution, man: being put to the trouble of going to a local zoning board like anybody else.

In the Illinois case, the board said no, so the Muslims are suing under Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA, or "re-LOOP-a"). Having helped represent an orthodox yeshiva in a RLUIPA action, I can opine that the Muslims here may have a case. The town would have to show that denying the permit is an action "narrowly tailored" to serve a "compelling state interest." Well, preventing terrorism is about the most compelling state interest I can imagine, in a legal world in which courts are willing to consider almost any ol' state interest to be "compelling." "Narrowly tailored"? Ida know.

USA OK, the Nation's Nicepaper, also tells us that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is "a civil rights and advocacy group".

Well. From Jihad Watch: "Based in Washington, D.C., this Saudi-funded group claims to be a defender of Muslim civil rights, yet CAIR has defended terrorists and attacked anyone who does not toe its Islamist party line as an 'Islamophobe'. CAIR's new headquarters in D.C. were financed with an interest-free loan from the Saudi Islamic Development Bank, and several of its officers have been indicted for terrorism-related activity. Terrorism expert Steve Emerson has stated before Congress that CAIR is a front group for Hamas, which is not surprising, since its executive director, Nihad Awad, has publicly supported Hamas."

Monday, March 08, 2004
Emily, of After Abortion: have I found another pro-life opera fan? FRAU is certainly bringing people together! (See this post.)

Moreover, it looks like I'm not the first to have written on FRAU's moral content: see also this article by Prof. Donald de Marco. (Reference to FRAU starts about half way through).

The Register (UK): The Church of England has announced a rather unusual spiritual vacancy -- no, it's not Bishop Gene Robinson; it's -- that of online vicar for its new i-church, which is a virtual place of worship. (Hat-tip to WGLIII.)

Old Oligarch: Infallibility -- use with caution!

Sunday, March 07, 2004
Marine flies over fence in Haiti

At least, that's the only sense I can make out of this picture from

Maybe Cacciagiuseppe will explain when he gets back from boot camp. (Or maybe not: he tends to explain things on a need-to-know basis.)

Here's a promising new blog: Fiat Lux!

Saturday, March 06, 2004
I'd comment on this, but I'm too busy laughing. Via Zorak.

Another one to skip if you're tired of Passion posts

* A deep-orange Presbyterian church in Belfast says "the message of the film is that of Roman Catholicism, not biblical Christianity".

* Here's a refreshing take on the agenda of the "shocked, shocked" media, from Julia Gorin of Jewish World Review, writing at NRO:

Both Mel and the Jews should feel used. There's a reason the controversy got as big as it did. The liberal media acting like they care whether someone is anti-Semitic or not is not only insulting but insidious as well. The plan is to keep the Passion ruckus they raised in their pocket, for fuel in countering accusations of anti-Semitism the next time they diminish terrorism against Israelis, the next time they misrepresent Israeli raids of terror camps as massacres, and the next time they demonize Israelis for building a wall to stay alive. All they'll have to say is: "We can't be anti-Semites. Just look at the hell we gave Mel!" ...

The media of the elites know well that it's not the anti-Semitism that yells "Christ killer" which kills today, but their enlightened anti-Semitism and Islamic anti-Semitism that do. Behold the unholy alliance between the two: The Passion is their opportunity to put a rift in the rival alliance between Christians and Jews. It's a chance to further the Left's war against religion, and the Muslims' war against religion that isn't theirs.

Friday, March 05, 2004
Converation chez Cacciaguida: universal explanation

ELINOR (to Number One Son): It's all about the Council of Trent.

CACCIAGUIDA (in next room; has just seen The Passion again, and is about to go to a Tridentine Mass): That's true, but what do you happen to be talking about?

ELINOR: When dinner will be.

DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN: the secret is out

Mark Swed, music critic of the L.A. Times, made a passing reference to Richard Strauss's epic fantasy-opera DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN (The Woman Without a Shadow) as "pro-life." A copy-editor, boneheadedly following the paper's stylebook, which apparently was edited by NARAL, changed "pro-life" to "anti-abortion." (Sorry, the article in question is accessible online only via a paid membership thing.)

Swed is in a tizzy, and he's right to be so, given that the copy-editor put highly-charged words into his mouth that he hadn't meant to use.

However, I can't say I see the distinction Swed is making when he says: "It's about children who aren't born yet screaming to be born -- not abortion."

FRAU is an opera in which fertility and family life are extolled, in which the villainess preaches about the wonders of being childless by choice, and in which her advice can only be resisted through hands-on lessons in generosity. And yes, there is indeed a "chorus of unborn children", expressing fear in Act I, and gratitude in Act III.

This L.A. Times fracas may have interesting repercussions: it's going to be harder to ignore FRAU's really rather obvious pro-life and anti-contraception overtones when it's performed; and it's being performed with increasing frequency. Watch for fur to fly in the opera world.

Once when Elinor and I saw FRAU at the Met, there was a couple sitting in front of us, and he was reading the synopsis out loud to her. Suddenly he stopped and, in the tone of one beginning to suspect that he is on the receiving end of a practical joke, said, "Hey, this is kind of like -- pro-life!" Elinor and I looked at one another with the expression known to signify "dawn breaking over Marble Head." (The couple stayed, however.)

Yes, FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN is the #1 pro-life/anti-abortion opera. What's #2? Hmmmm. Probably BORIS GODUNOV. Why? Well, look at all the grief he gives himself over killing one child....

FRAU links: an overly-brief synopsis; a better synopsis; a good recording; another one, and another; a DVD.

Article here on Passion composer John Debney, and how the score came about.

Having at this point heard the album three times and seen the movie twice, I'd say the score is built on three elements, in roughly descending order of prominence:

* Melkhite Catholic chant, and its first-cousin-once-removed, Jewish cantorial wail
* traditional Korngoldian Hollywood, up to and including moments of Bible-epic schmaltz (but not too many)
* occasional aggressive percussion, up to and including a rock beat (but not too often)

It works.

"I need to see you as soon as you have a few free moments," Kennedy wrote. "I want to tell you about a new development in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and at least part of what I say should come as welcome news."

-- Justice Anthony Kennedy to Justice Harry Blackmun, during deliberations over whether to overrule Roe v. Wade, according to the recently opened Blackmun Papers.

Thursday, March 04, 2004
I'm feeing grrrrreat! Our admissions committee, following my lead, just turned down an applicant with killer scores, and whom we "needed" for reasons of admissions numbers and stats -- because he was rude on the phone to a young lady on our admissions staff, and because he used his personal statement to laud his ability to whine and go over heads until he gets his way. Wish I could deflate a ratbastard like that every day.

ADL = Abe's Dang Lip?

Jewish Week, 3//5/04: “The hysteria of the Jewish response was uncalled for,” Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, head of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and a persistent critic of the ADL, said this week. “We have fought this and lost.”

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, in a statement on the film implicitly criticized Foxman when he said, “The fact that we need to be saying something doesn’t mean that what we say is wise, thoughtful or effective.”

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, a professor, author and longtime Jewish leader, was more blunt, telling the New York Observer that “the ADL is the bully in town” and that anyone who disagrees with the 90-year-old agency’s tactics is portrayed as “treasonable.

The moral: don't let Foxman or Hier -- or Annas or Caiaphas, come to that -- stand for "the Jews" in your mind.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

CNS (via Townhall, via LGF): More Mosques in France Falling Under Sway of Radicals

Roland, call your office.

Ann Coulter gets Passiolicious

The [NY] Times ought to send one of its crack investigative reporters to St. Patrick's Cathedral at 3 p.m. on Good Friday before leaping to the conclusion that "The Passion" is Gibson's idiosyncratic take on Christianity. In a standard ritual, Christians routinely eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ, aka "the Lamb of God." The really serious Catholics do that blood- and flesh-eating thing every day, the sickos. The Times has just discovered the tip of a 2,000-year-old iceberg.


Jesus' distinctive message was: People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this is your lucky day because I'm here to redeem you even though you don't deserve it, and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it. That is the reason He is called "Christ the Redeemer" rather than "Christ the Moron Driving Around in a Volvo With a 'Be Nice to People' Bumper Sticker on It."

And more.

Cacciadelia at the podium: the latest converts

"Well, it's right that they should become Catholics, because they have Catholic names. I mean, "Adam", our first father, and "Joshua", he was the successor of Moses, right?"

Hmm. Compare "inner child".

You're Watership Down!

by Richard Adams

Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you're
actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their
assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they
build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You'd
be recognized as such if you weren't always talking about talking rabbits.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Interesting grab-bag of Passion reactions here. Excerpts and comments:

In parts of the United States, “The Passion of the Christ” is the biggest thing since the Beatles.

Clever line! Sort of redresses an imbalance in the culture that's been past due since the late '60s, no?

“Non-Jews genuinely don’t see the anti-Semitism,” said Rabbi Mark Levin of Congregation Beth Torah in Overland Park, Kan. “That means that the deicide charge really does not register with them, and perhaps it is not really a part of their culture. I think they are seeing how, in their view, they killed the Christ.”

Well, I don't concede that anti-Semitism is really there in the movie, but that to one side, this is a very insightful remark. I wish the priest in the next excerpt had as many clues as the rabbi in the foregoing one:

Father Jon R. Donahue, a professor of New Testament studies at St. Mary’s Seminary and University...told an interfaith group in Baltimore after seeing the film....

“The portrayal of the Jewish high priests is a travesty, and I think the historical structure of the film is really a travesty and really portrays Jewish people of that time in a horrible light,” Donahue said. “It contains many things that are not in any gospel at all, and there’s nothing about Jesus’s concern for the poor, with the outcast in Palestine at that time. It’s simply, ‘I’m saved by the blood of Christ.’ ”

Yeah, it's called Catholicism. Wtf are they teaching you at -- what was it again? St. Mary's Seminary and University? Hey Ratzi! Guess what they're teaching at St. Mary's Seminary and University...! Hey, can we e-mail this to Ratzi? Yeah, and fax too. Fax is good. Yeah. There we go. Thanks.

“I had a chance to see this movie about two months ago,” said [Dallas businessman Arch Bonnema, a Baptist]. “When I came out of the movie, when I saw the sacrifice that Christ made for me, I thought I have to do something more significant with my life. I have to be a better person. A better father, better neighbor, better son, better husband. I thought: If it affected me that way, it’s going to affect other people that way.”

It made me feel that way too. From your lips to God's ears, for both us, Arch. Applying this only to myself, I would add "less sarcastic." Yeah. Less sarcastic is good.

In Charlotte, where more than 300 people went to Temple Beth El to discuss the movie, many embraced interfaith dialogue.

Sid Sussman, a local attorney, was appalled by the film’s violence, but said, “I want to thank Mel Gibson for bringing us together tonight.”


And from elsewhere on the same website:

"If people say that this film was anti-Semitic, then basically what they're saying is the Gospels were anti-Semitic," said Aryeh Leifert, an Orthodox rabbinical student.

In those immortal words from A Man for All Seasons: "Thank you, Sir Thomas. I've been endeavoring to make that clear to His Grace for some time."

Darren Kleinberg, 27, another Orthodox rabbinical student in New York, said the movie made him feel passionate toward Christians for their having to wrestle with the painful story.

"I wanted to hug everyone in the room," Kleinberg said. "In Judaism, we don't have that kind of weight."

Hug returned, friend -- no irony. Your remark is profound. But for us, Christ's passion is about a weight lifted, not a weight imposed. I recall a great piece of dialogue in a wonderful TV series that ran all-too-briefly in the early '90s, called Brooklyn Bridge. (Yep, there's a link for it! Gosh, I love the Internet!)

Scene: Brooklyn, 1957. Katie Monahan and Alan Silver, both just 13, strongly attracted to each other. She's explaining to him the practice of sacramental confession:

Katie: You tell your sins to the priest, he gives you absolution [thus applying Christ's sacrifice anew to the penitent -- ed.], and you're forgiven. Don't Jews have anything like that?

Alan: Naa. We just have guilt -- and that never goes away.

Morning star, pray for us

"It's universal. Motherhood is universal; love between mother and child is universal. It doesn't matter if you're Jewish, Palestinian, Egyptian or American."

-- Maia Morgenstern, Jewish actress who plays Mary in The Passion of the Christ, and whose name, translated from the Greek and German, means Mother Morningstar

Monday, March 01, 2004
Counter-Reformation aesthetics in The Passion

Perceptive article here (may require free registration) by a Washington Post art critic in the Outlook section of yesterday's edition. Excerpts:

Gibson's action may be set in 1st-century Jerusalem, but his style comes from 17th-century Rome.

Special-effect skies, gleams from brass and leather, swirling darks and lights, heart-rending emoting -- Rome's militantly Catholic painters, and their peers in Spain and Flanders, went straight for the gut, and did so through the viewer's responding eye. Gibson does the same. His Mary and Magdalene, shown in tear-streaked close-ups gazing dolorously upward, look just like Guido Reni's. And when Gibson calls his film "a moving Caravaggio" it is because its swirlings, its gritty realism, its dark palette, and its scenes side-lit by torches come straight from Caravaggio's paintings.... The artiness is there to soften our disgust. Over his movie's bloodiness Gibson has poured the sort of golden glow that rises through the yellowed varnish of Old Master paintings. And beneath his gore he shows us the many ripe conventions of Counter-Reformation art.
The more the reformers valorized the Word, the more they turned away from images. The most extreme among them -- the "image-breakers," the iconclasts -- saw it as their duty to smash the sensual power -- the scary, popish power -- they sensed in Catholic art.
If American Protestantism can be said to have a visual style, this preference for the cleansed, the stripped-down, the ascetic, must be one of its chief strands. That plainness is still seen in the clean, white clapboard churches scattered through New England, in the Quaker meeting houses of Pennsylvania, all the way to the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, Calif. No Catholic paintings taint these sanctuaries. Billy Sunday's revival tent wasn't hung with gilded frames....

And now along comes Gibson, returning to center stage the vivid Catholic imagery -- sensual, argumentative, Marian and Latinate -- of Counter-Reformation art.

I don't agree with every point Mr. Richard makes, but I recommend the piece. And thanks to the Washington Post for being a pearl among elite-liberal dailies. You'd never see this article in the NY Times.

Add this to those "Actually printed in church bulletins" thingies that people e-mail you

All staff at my university received today a message that began with this paragraph:

"The Law School Mediation Clinic has been blessed with a wonderful opportunity that we wish to open up to anyone interested in Domestic Violence."

Chick car

Heh! -- "Unenlightened parents react badly when they learn that their teenagers have been experimenting with Conservatism.... It is a tribute to how far the Conservatives have come in the past 12 months that homosexual groups are at last prepared to sit down with them, take a leap, and admit them to mainstream society."

Morning news roundup

* LORD OF THE RINGS sets Oscar record...unprecedented sweep! YESSSSSS!!

* Aristide joins Club Fled. Well I hear there are lots of Haitians there, so that'll be nice for him.