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

Saturday, September 30, 2006
L'affaire Foley: Well, there goes the ChildhelpUSA Man of the Year award, as Pat Buchanan might have put it. And there goes FL 16, as the NRCC is probably thinking.

1. What happened

You know, it wasn't the e-mails: those were creepy, but not instant-resignation time. The problem was the IMs. (Say -- if Foley had used the phone instead of IM, then would we have had to rely on the NSA to detect him?) Mr. Foley didn't quit when the e-mails became public: he quit when ABC News (apparently tipped off by CREW, an organization whose leaders include numerous alumni of "Alliance for Justice," they of Anita Hill fame, Washington's principal leftwing attack unit in judicial confirmation politics) began asking questions about the IMs. Then Foley resigned. Then the IMs began appearing on the 'net.

This is not, of course, the first time a Member, so to speak, has gotten in trouble for trying to stick his hand, so to speak, in the deep cookie-jar that is the Capitol page corps. Rep. Dan Crane (R-IL-Straight) tried it, and lost his next election. Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA-Gay) tried it, and got reelected time and time again until he jolly well felt like retiring.

2. E mi farà il destino
ritrovar questo paggio in ogni loco!

Why does Congress have pages, anyway? As a means of communication, they've been outmoded since the invention of the telephone, never mind the fax and e-mail. No, they serve two purposes: (1) patronage -- Members can cultivate donors by giving donors' kids a cool credential for their college apps; and (2) chicken.

I don't know whether this is relevant to the Foley case or not, but I've been on Capitol Hill and there's something I should tell you about the pages. Being straight as a slide-rule myself, I'll confine my remarks to the subject of the page girls. Female and gay-male friends with Hill experience may, if they like, comment on whether the equivalent can be said of the boys.

The page girls are most noticeably characterized by long, thick, exquisitely managed hair that they flick at you in the elevators. They are all extremely pretty. They wear make-up very well, by which I mean, they never overdo it; it helps, never hurts, the over-all effect. This suggests to me -- but what do I know about this, really? -- that they spend more time on their make-up than on delivering messages. But then, is delivering messages really why they're there? Or why the Members who hire them put them there?

Of course in all charity I should assume that every one of them is there to learn about government, that they take care of their looks because that's what nice girls do, and that they want others to see how nice-looking they are because they're full of youthful enthusiasm for the legislative process. So consider it assumed.

3. "Hypocrisy" estoppel as incipient speech regulation

One more thing: everyone's using the word "hypocritical" in relation to Foley's legislation on behalf of sexually exploited children. But is it necessarily "hypocritical," say, for an alcoholic to vote for prohibition? Or for a porn addict to vote for tough obscenity bans? Such legislators could be hypocrites -- or they could just be, ummm, policy experts. They may vote for restrictions because they think (rightly or wrongly) that they understand better than others why restrictions are needed. I wonder if there isn't more hypocrisy in people who vote to ban vices that they happen not to be attracted to. I have more problems with the alcoholic who's "tough on drugs" (meaning, other people's drugs) than with the child molester who's tough on child molestation.

It's not fairness to Foley that I'm concerned about; he can go either home to West Palm or to prison, as far as I care. What concerns me about the way we throw around the word "hypocritical" is that it tends toward preventing sinners (i.e. all of us) from debating public responses to sin, even where such public responses may be appropriate.

St. Thomas rightly teaches that it does not belong to the state to repress all evil; but surely it belongs to the state to repress some evil. Even libertarians agree the state should ban force and fraud. But how will it do that if the rules on "hypocrisy" inhibit debate by any who have ever committed, or even been tempted to commit, some form of force or fraud?

Not infrequently, it's those who've been around the block who know best why one shouldn't go around the block. Sometimes they're the only ones who know it. So sure, let's silence exactly those people -- who benefits from that?

EDITED TO ADD some 2nd day folo: This is a tough case for the Democrats too. They don't want to be seen as soft on ephebophiles, but neither do they want to alienate their base. So what's their spin? That the dirt on Foley should have been handed over to them. Makes a certain kind of sense: you can't buy oppo research like that.

The Nation's spin is that it's all the fault of those rightwing voters in Florida who, one just knows, would never "accept" Foley "for who he was," thus creating "pressures" to stay in the closet, and once you're under that kinds of "pressures," we-el then, it's no wonder....

Friday, September 29, 2006
Lebanese Christians Protest Hezbollah. "Don Samir of Lebanon is going to the war...."


It's Michaelmas! So, start the term!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Subject-line of e-mail from Ignatius Press (maybe you got it too): "15% off Women of Grace." Sheesh, everyone's selling out....

My god-daughter is a genius!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Mozart Opera Canceled for Muhammad Scene

A leading opera house in Berlin, Germany canceled a 3-year-old production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" that included a scene showing the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad, unleashing a furious debate over free speech.

In a statement late Monday, the Deutsche Oper said it decided "with great regret" to cancel the production of the 225-year-old opera after Berlin security officials warned of an "incalculable risk" stemming from the scene.

After its premiere in 2003, the production by Hans Neuenfels drew widespread criticism over the scene in which King Idomeneo presents the severed heads not only of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, but also of Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha.
Yes, I noticed it too: among the "heads" arbitrarily added to this opera, by yet another hotdogging Eurotrash director, was that of Jesus as well as Muhammad. But that only drew "widespread criticism," which is what Eurotrash productions are meant to do. But throw in Muhammad, and that's, you know, different.

"A furious debate over free speech?" You mean, over whether or not it would be a good idea? Because it seems that's all the Deutsche Oper has left itself to debate about.

UPDATE: Deutsche Oper reverses decision; cojones on loan from new German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who btw was also the first European leader to defend the Holy Father over the Regensburg speech. (Hat tip: The Rat.)

Dennis Prager makes an interesting connection: Pius attacked for not confronting evil, Benedict attacked for confronting evil

Sunday, September 24, 2006
Thomas Stewart, RIP

Stewart with wife, soprano Evelyn Lear

From the message I just received:

Dear Friends,
>It is with great sadness and personal grief that I inform you that
>Thomas Stewart died this afternoon.
>He was on the golf course. He was with Evelyn. He fell to the ground
>and he died instantly.
>As you can imagine, Evelyn is distraught but being as brave as
>possible. Her son and daughter in law are with her. I will be there
>This is a great moment of sadness for all of us. But, I feel that I
>and all of us who are part of the ESP [Emerging Singers Program], had the wonderful experience
>of knowing this truly great man and we will continue his work for
>great Wagner Singing.
>RIP, Thomas Stewart. Great Man, Great Singer, Great Artist, Great Human Being.

Stewart, a Wagnerian baritone from Texas, was the great Wotan of the late 1960s and early '70s, that otherwise-desolate period after the retirements of Hans Hotter and George London, and before the rise of Donald McIntyre (who was Stewart's equal but not his superior).

Stewart's distinctive Valhalla-on-the-Range style is, laus Deo, preserved in Karajan's complete RING cycle. (Actually, Fischer-Dieskau sings Wotan in DAS RHEINGOLD, but Stewart takes over the more mature Wotan of DIE WALKURE and SIEGFRIED, and also reappears as Gunther in GOTTERDAMMERUNG, giving that weak character an unusual dose of Rocky Mountain oysters.)

Long after his retirement, Stewart contributed to Wagnerian opera -- and especially to Wagnerian opera in the Washington area -- through his Emerging Singers Program, several of whose alumni I have heard and admired (e.g. tenor Thomas Rolfe Truhitte, bass-baritone Charles Robert Austin). In 2000, Stewart himself came out of retirement to sing the appropriately sepulchral role of Titurel in PARSIFAL at the Washington Opera. Number One Son and I heard that performance and chatted with him backstage after Act I (Titurel's only singing part).

Though Wagner was Tom's specialty, I also saw him as Verdi's Iago and Ford, and as Offenbach's Four Villains.

Tom Stewart was an example in another way as well: through the constancy of his marriage to Evelyn Lear. In the multiple-divorcing world of show biz, the Stewart and Lear team were a rock of stability and general marriedness.

Saturday, September 23, 2006
Yale (1-1) over Cornell (0-2), 21-9. Harvard (2-0) over Brown (1-1), 38-21. Rest of Ivies played outside their league today (esp. Dartmouth, which lost to New Hampshire 56-14)

Finally -- some Catholics riot!

Despite there being separate sections at the cemetery in Low Wood Road for different faiths, the council wanted to give a tidy, linear appearance. this new cemetary in Nottingham, England -- as in, Nottingham, England, Europe -- will have all its graves facing Mecca. Christians who desire a different configuration (facing east, as distinct from southeast) can petition for special arrangements, as is customary for minority religions.

Thursday, September 21, 2006
Conversation chez Cacciaguida: the quiet man

ELINOR'S CELL PHONE: *rings, on other side of room*

NUMBER ONE SON: Here, I'll get it. -- It's Jonathan Lee. -- Hello? Hello? -- Here, maybe he'll talk to you.

ELINOR (into phone): Hello?

CACCIAGUIDA: Only Jonathan Lee would call up in order not to say anything.

ELINOR: Hello?

NUMBER ONE SON: It's probably in his pocket and got dialled accidentally.

ELINOR: I know, that's why I'm yelling. HELLO??

NUMBER ONE SON: Throw it at the ceiling....

Yale University to post courses on Web for free

BOSTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- Yale University said on Wednesday it will offer digital videos of some courses on the Internet for free, along with transcripts in several languages, in an effort to make the elite private school more accessible.

When you read that, I'll bet you had the exact same reaction I did: why in hell is a news item about Yale datelined Boston?

Monday, September 18, 2006
Leno sez: "You know what the Pope really needs to apologize for? That Notre Dame game against Michigan last Saturday -- what's up with that?"

New York Mets clinch the National League East championship! This is their first division title in 18 years. Of course they made it to the World Series in 2000, but that was courtesy of the "wild card" system that had to be introduced when both major leagues split into an odd number of divisions.

If the Mets make it to the World Series -- which would mean winning two sets of playoff series first -- then they are "scheduled" to win it. See, they won their first World Series, in 1969 (beating the highly-favored Baltimore Orioles). They lost their second, in 1973, to the Oakland A's. They won their third, in 1986, beating the Boston Red Sox and postponing that almost equally lovable team's next World Series victory until the memorable 2004 postseason.

Lastly, the Mets lost their fourth World Series, in 2000, to the Yankees. As already noted, they "backed into" the postseason that year as the "wild card" team: they had no realistic chance of beating that year's Yankees, and indeed did not.

But this year it's different. A win, a loss, a win, and a loss -- that's the Mets' World Series record so far. So, if they get into the Series this year, they are due to win -- even if they're playing the Yankees again.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Alternative-universe headlines:
Catholics worldwide condemn NY Times -- riots in Rome, Dublin, South Philly -- Chants of "Massacre those who insult our Pope" -- Mosques torched, imam shot in the back -- Security tight in Little Italy for Tuesday's San Gennaro Festival -- "Top editors must all apologize in person to Pope," says bishop -- "Press freedom sucks just like we've always said," says pres. of DeBonald Society....
But seriously folks, is the kind of instinctive respect that Islam now gets from the western MSM available to anyone who blows up Americans?

Some say it's precisely the absolute safety of attacking Catholicism and Catholic leaders that makes them do it: nobody really thinks we would fly airplanes into skyscrapers; they just pretend to. True, but that only explains why they don't refrain once they've gotten the urge to line up behind Islam's most puerile and zany spokesmen. The question is, what gives them that urge? Whence the secular left's highly unilateral love affair with radical Islam?

I allude above to DeBonald, who in the 1820s imposed press censorship in France in defense of the (shaky and recent) alliance of altar and throne; is the New York Times stuck in that time capsule? Or it delusional enough to see moral equivalence between Catholicism today and radical Islam today? Note the penultimate graf in the editorial, which makes clear that the Times's animus is not only against the Pope defending his religion against competitors, but against his defending it at all.

I'm trying to come up with explanations that don't make the NYT look like loonies or bigots, and I'm not getting anywhere. Admittedly my motivation is not intense, so I'd be glad to let others try....

Saturday, September 16, 2006
The Harry Potter stories are the most popular books in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre's library, the Pentagon has revealed.
Yes, in fact they've taken to writing their own: Harry Potter and the Two Towers, Harry Potter and the Martyr of Taliban, Harry Potter and the Carry-On Luggage of Fire, Harry Potter and the Chamber of an Alternative Set of Procedures, Harry Potter and the Border Near Phoenix (that one's for you, Ed the Roman!), Harry Potter and the Red-Blood Pope....

Friday, September 15, 2006
Pope criticizes spinach. Just kidding.


One of the amusing side-features of the Pope-Islam fracas is the range of people seizing the opportunity to pretend to be important. My favorite headline today: Bardakoglu blasts Pope Benedict's remarks.

"Relapsed Catholic" Kathy Shaidle is now linked here (under Catholic Blogs).

Holy Father speaks truth to terror

Oremus pro Beatissimo Papa nostro Benedicto. Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.

CNN International: Islam row raises pope safety fears

India Times: Pope a "medieval crusader" in India

Parapundit (note to self: must link this guy): Pope Benedict criticizes Muslim holy war. Noteworthy subhed: "Unwillingness to call Islam religion of peace puts Pontiff ahead of George W. Bush in public honesty."

Diogenes counter-clarifies a Vatican "spokesman's" "clarifications"

Laodicea: We love you, Benedict XVI!

Mundus Johanni: In defense of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

The Emperor Manuel II Paleologos quote (or, if you like: "The Emperor Manolo, he say:"):
Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

Manuel II Paleologos


Relapsed Catholic (long overdue to be linked -- forgive me!): Farewell, warrior: Oriana Fallaci dies of cancer

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Pontiff Points to 3 Keys for Ecumenical Progress

Yeah: surrender, admit error, and sign up for RCIA.
REGENSBURG, Germany, SEPT. 13, 2006 ( The three keys to making progress on the way to Christian unity are "confession" of Christ, witness and love, Benedict XVI said at an ecumenical gathering in Bavaria.
Yeah, those too.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.
A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends
and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.
An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men
comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight!
By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand,
Men of the West!

Speech by J.R.R. Tolkien. Photospread by Reuters, via Kross & Sweord.

All day until midnight, is making available a complete rerun of its original, real-time, as-it-happened 9/11/01 coverage.

It's more than three hours, in two segments. The first segment starts with the north tower already hit; reporters assume that's as far as it will go, and speculate about a "navigational" accident. Then the second plane hits.

Such is our desire to believe the best that one of the reporters asks an NTSB official whether, just possibly, some "navigational" error could cause two separate planes to hit each tower. "No." Thereafter, fueled by FBI announcements, the talk turns to terrorism, and to Washington, where the Pentagon has been hit (one witness saw it just after taking the left-hand exit off 395 toward the Arlington Memorial Bridge), and there are rumors about fires and/or explosions at the State Department, the Mall, and the Capitol.

The first segment ends with the collapse of the south tower, where it seems the jet the fuel tank ignited sooner than in the north tower. The collapse of the north tower occurs a few minutes into the segment. CNN producer covering: "Good lord...there are no words...."

ETA: Peggy Noonan on some of the victims' and rescuers' last phone messages -- "No one said anything unneeded, extraneous or small. Crisis is a great editor."

Sunday, September 10, 2006
Anna got bad news today. Her father died of a heart attack. Now she like me is alone in the world. He left her nothing but a cabin and barn and fifty acres in the Blue Ridge not far from Lexington, Virginia. Well, that settles it. No Big Sur after all and perhaps it's just as well. In fact it is a kind of sign. It is Virginia where we're supposed to be. I see that clearly now.


Yes, don't you see? Virginia is where it will all begin. And it is where there are men who will do it. Just as it is Virginia where it all began in the beginning, or at least where the men were to conceive it, the great Revolution, fought it, won it, and saw it on its way. They began the Second Revolution and we lost it. Perhaps the Third Revolution will end differently.

-- Walker Percy, Lancelot

The Benedictine monastery in Germany known locally as Benediktbeuren is the original home of the set of medieval lyrics known to medievalists as "M" and to the general public as the Songs of Beuren, or "Carmina Burana."

Well, that's Benediktbeuren. Now, courtesy of The Curt Jester, meet Benediktbier.

ETA: And speaking of bottles of beer -- 99 Bishops Gather for a Crash Course. If one of those bishops should happen to crash....

You Are Likely A Forth Born

At your darkest moments, you feel angry.
At work and school, you do best when your analyzing.
When you love someone, you tend to be very giving.

In friendship, you don't take the initiative in reaching out.
Your ideal jobs are: factory jobs, comedy, and dentistry.
You will leave your mark on the world with your own personal philosophy.

Well I'm a first-born, so ha. (But I was born "forth," I suppose, so perhaps they're right.)

Friday, September 08, 2006
Labour House of Cards: Blair will go, but not soon; Brown grins; Clarke calls Brown "stupid," with no rebuke from Blair....

Let's vote on whether or not Bush did whatever Chalabi said

Tomorrow's headlines are going to be dominated by stories like this one about the Senate Intelligence Committee's two new "Phase II" reports on postwar assessments and prewar intel on Iraq, and on the role of Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress. Basic spin -- Democrats: "Devastating"; White House: "Nothing new."

Well, your medieval warrior has had a chance to chat with some intel experts who are, as the papers like to put it, "close to the investigation." They call attention to the unusual procedural posture of this report (something confirmed in the report itself if you look for its section on its own procedural history).

You can get pdfs of the two reports at the Committee's website here.

After the Committee staff had completed their conclusions, a motion was made by the Ranking Minority Member of the Committee, Sen. Rockefeller, to amend the reports' findings rather substantially, especially as to Chalabi's role. It seems that when this Senate was organized, Republicans only sought and obtained a one-seat majority on this committee, despite their increase in numbers after the 2004 elections, so they're highly vulnerable to defections in their ranks. The Rockefeller motion was supported by all the Committee's Democrats, plus GOP Senators Hagel and Snowe.

The result is that the report now contains "conclusions" that were added in a partisan fashion (i.e., Dems plus two usual-suspect Republicans) and that are not believed to be accurate by the professional staff that drew up the report.

There is agreement across the board that prewar intel was flawed and that, even in light of post-invasion intel, evidence of Iraq-AlQaeda links is "at best, mixed." Mind you, non-Iraqis were being trained at the terrorist camp at Salman Pak (which featured a gen-yoo-yne widebody jetliner for hijack practice), and it strains credulity to assert that none of them were AlQaeda, but we don't have smoking gun to prove that any of them were. They say.

However, the real distortions appear to be those that concern Chalabi and the INC, the role of which is now exaggerated beyond what the Committee's profession staffers are willing to stand by.

The report contains "additional remarks" by Senators of both parties. You can read those of the Democrats if you like; I'm told they do a good job of cherry-picking facts to excuse their own votes for the war. The additional remarks of Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Committee, joined by Sens. Hatch, Lott, Chambliss, DeWine, and Warner, are remarkable in the way they characterize their own Committee's net product:
Regrettably, with the adoption of the conclusions now contained in this report, the Committee has failed to meet its obligations and responsibilies as they relate to our review of the use by the Intelligence Community of information provided by the Iraqi National Congress (INC). These failures are borne out by the sharp divide between the findings and conclusions adopted by several members of this Committee, and the findings and conclusions -- drawn from the fine work of Committee staff -- that I, along with several of my colleagues, supported as the Committee considered this report.
Writing separately, Sen. Roberts says:
I believe the adopted conclusions are not supported by the facts and contain numerous errors and omissions.
The amazing thing is, when people talk about "politicized intelligence work," they're thinking of the White House, not the Senate Intelligence Committee. Yet only in the latter do we see the phenomenon of members voting on pure issues of fact. Not even juries -- the ultimate "finders of fact" in our system -- do that: they have to come to a consensus.

ETA: The RNC has put together a then-vs.-now collection of things Democrats have said about Iraqi WMD and Saddam's dangerousness. Fun.

Happy birthday to the Blessed Mother!

Thursday, September 07, 2006
Another W.Post headline: Male Bass Across Region Found to be Bearing Eggs. Turns out the spin is environmenal tsuris. At first I thought it would be: Hey, the fishies are gender-bending, why shouldn't we?

Oops, sorry about that, Terri. Terri?...

Happy birthday to Elinor!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006
My object all sublime: the Japanese imperial family at last has a male heir. Despite the Japanese monarchy's possible links to extreme atrocities during the War,* I confess to going weak at the knees over very, very old monarchies, such as Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne.

*These were certainly done in Hirohito's name and by persons reporting to a chain of command of which he was, at least nominally, the summit. His exact culpability is probably lost in the mists of imperial court ceremony; some say being regarded as a living god didn't mean he had actual powers beyond ordering tea. It appears he played an aggressive role forcing the surrender, over the objections (and hara-kiris) of the last-ditch militarists. MacArthur was wise to leave him in place as a figurehead.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Astrid Varnay,1918-2006

As Brunnhilde

A very good obituary here. I really didn't think Nilsson would go before Varnay.

Compared to Nilsson, Varnay was, for me, a mystery to be solved. I had seen Nilsson in person: twice as the WALKURE Brunnhilde, in two different productions at the Met, and in other roles. But Varnay: she was far away (due to -- what else? -- a quarrel with the Met's then-manager, Rudolf Bing), yet there was her name in the Met annals, the volumes covering those tantalizing years just before I started going to the Met myself.

As many Wagner sopranos do, Varnay indulged a long after-career as a character mezzo-soprano, and in that capacity she returned to the Met in 1974, as Kostelnicka in Janacek's JENUFA. It wasn't an opera I knew or especially liked, but that wasn't the point: the point was that I was sitting in a Met seat, there, and on stage was Astrid Varnay, there -- the Astrid Varnay, the one who was such a sensation in the '50s, blowing away audiences at DIE WALKURE, regardless of whether she was singing Brunnhilde or Sieglinde, or in TANNHAUSER, whether she was singing Elisabeth or Venus.

What's most fun about such after-careers is when a diva like Varnay takes on a major secondary role in an opera in which she used to be famous for the lead. In the '50s, Varnay owned the role of Strauss's Elektra. I was born too late to see her in that role -- but I saw her as Klytemnestra, Elektra's loathed and creeking mother: a major secondary role if ever there was one, with the awesomest entrance in all of opera. When she emerged from the doorway of Agamemnon's collapsing palace and aimed her stick at Elektra -- "Was willst du? Seht doch, dort! so seht doch das!..." -- some in the audience went wild, seeing again the Elektra of their youth. (A bit rough on that day's excellent Elektra, the late Ursula Schroeder-Feinen, but she got the big ovation she deserved at the end.)

Despite her foreign name and her retirement to Munich, Varnay was actually American. Her family came over from Sweden when she was little. They endured the Depression, but they were also in the right place at the right time for young Astrid to make her unexpected and unrehearesed Met debut as Sieglinde in DIE WALKURE on December 6, 1941. A few days after that triumph, she was again called on at the last minute, this time for Brunnhilde, the other, and harder, soprano lead in the same opera. Her operatic divinity was thereby assured. Though thanks to Bing's bunglery Varnay spent most of her career after 1954 in Germany, she was almost (maybe not quite!) as American as that other Wagner soprano of the 1940s, the "St. Louis Woman," Helen Traubel.

Prayers for Mme. Varnay. And for Ingrid Bjoner, who also died yesterday: a Swedish Wagnerian soprano of lesser power than Nilsson or Varnay, but nonetheless one of the valuable many without whom the show could not go on.

Nur Todgeweihten
taugt mein Anblick;
wer mich erschaut
der scheidet vom Lebenslicht.
Auf der Walstatt allein
erschein' ich Edlen:
wer mich gewahrt,
zur Wal kor ich ihn mir.

Monday, September 04, 2006
Pope Notes Conditions for Interreligious Prayer Meetings

A Testimony of Fraternity, Which Must Avoid Syncretism, He Says

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 4, 2006 ( Benedict XVI confirmed the importance of interreligious prayer meetings for peace and emphasized that, to be coherent, they must respect the various religious traditions while avoiding syncretism.
Whew! -- if you don't mind my saying so.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Azzam," I invite you to the true faith

Today's Washington Post placed the latest Al Qaeda scare video, this one featuring American Islamic convert Adam Gadahn, a.k.a. "Azzam the American," on page A24. Some may criticize this news judgment, but I do not: there is no good reason to allow the Moros to commandeer all our front pages just by posting another extortion message on one of their websites.

That said, this video needs, and has received, commenting on, e.g. by Counterterrorism Blog here, and also by Jihad Watch here. Robert Spencer, of Jihad Watch, is one of several American terrorism experts specifically "invited" by this video to convert to Islam -- an "invitation" that is implicitly a death threat, since according to a hadith (post-Koranic written tradition viewed as authoritative), Muslims may kill an "infidel" only after inviting him to convert.

In response to this invitation, Spencer declares:
...Adam, I have a preliminary invitation of my own for you: I invite you to accept the Bill of Rights, and enter into the brotherhood of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. My invitation does not focus on my religion, although I invite you to that also, but rather on a framework within which people of differing faiths can live in peace, harmony, and mutual respect -- provided that none of the groups involved cherishes supremacist ambitions to subjugate the others.
Good; I'll join in that. I teach the Bill of Rights, Jefferson, and Madison, as well as medieval Crusading; they all have their points. But I'd like to add a little:

Adam, I invite you to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, as Lord, and as second person of the God the Blessed Trinity, "for there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12), and in His one holy Catholic and apostolic Roman Church, the "pillar and ground of the truth," 1 Timothy 3:15. Christ's revelation is final, and any later purported revelation that would reduce Him to the status of mere prophet shows itself thereby as false, if not indeed satanic. "Who is a liar, but he who denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is Antichrist, who denieth the Father, and the Son." 1 John 2:22.

Your Mohammad was an enterprising adventurer who secured secular power by cobbling together a rattletrap religion from shards of theology that he picked up from whatever Jews and Christians he happened to find in Arabia, who were probably rather dodgy ones anyway, because why else would they be in Arabia? (It was a popular retirement destination for Byzantine heretics.) He persuaded a few followers (later many, through conquest) not only that there is only one God, as to which he was of course correct, but also that this was somehow news to the entire world outside Arabia, thus creating a painful necessity for world conquest by newly-enlightened Arabs.

Your God has no love for mankind -- only icy justice. You are outraged, as are many Jews, by the notion that He so abased Himself as to become one of us and take our sins on Himself. As Chesterton said, stumbling on that rock of scandal is the first step. You call God "all-merciful": dare to believe that He is infinitely more merciful than your theology allows Him to be.