July 2006 Archives

Another Cardinal George Update

Cardinal Francis George returned to the operating room just before midnight last night for an exploratory surgery. The Cardinal had exhibited an unstable blood pressure and a drop in blood count despite having received blood transfusions. These conditions were discussed with the Cardinal and a decision was made to return to the operating room.

In a two-hour procedure, Dr. Robert Flanigan, assisted by Dr. Fred Luchette, Chief of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Loyola, found a small blood vessel in the pelvis that was bleeding. The source was successfully closed, the bleeding was stopped and the Cardinal stabilized. He tolerated the operation well and is resting comfortably this morning.

Although the episode of postoperative bleeding represents a complication of the radical cystectomy, it is not an unusual occurrence and is not expected to have a significant impact on Cardinal George’s recovery. During the next few days he will continue to be closely monitored.

More from the Sun Times.

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The Church Around the World


One of my favorite news agencies is Fides News, a service associated with the Catholic Church's Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. Fides carries news from all over the world, giving an "on the ground" Catholic perspective on world events. From natural disasters, wars and famines to new seminaries, schools and hospitals and addresses from bishops in third world countries, Fides gives an account of what's going in the world and how the Church is ministering to those those affected by these events.

Here's a sample of some recent news items, follow the links for the whole stories:

  • From the Democratic Republic of Congo
    Repeated violence in east Congo is causing tens of thousands to abandon homes and fields. Warned that food supplies will soon run out the United Nations World Food Programme has launched an urgent call to international donors to give more funds assist these suffering people. The situation is most serious in Gety, in Ituri province, where 38,000 displaced persons are sheltering. On July 14 WFP took two week food rations from its stores at Bunia to distribute to 30,000 people in Gety, but now its supplies are almost finished and more funds are urgently needed.

  • From Israel
    St John of God Catholic Hospital in Nazareth was the first to give emergency treatment to victims of an attack on the town a week ago in the present conflict. At about 5pm on Wednesday 19 July, re-named Nazareth’s black Wednesday, without any warning three Katyusha rockets suddenly landed in the Bilal district of the Arab part of the town hitting a mosque in front of which several children were playing.

  • From East Timor
    If more young men ask to serve the Lord and consecrate their lives to service of the Church and the people in East Timor, there is still hope for the youngest democracy in Asia, despite conditions of political and social instability. The occasion of the solemn profession of new Salesians di Camilo Boavida and Venancio Fatima Freitas was in fact a festive event for the whole community in Baucau. People put aside their daily worries and anxieties to share in the joy of the two young men called by God to follow in the footsteps of Saint John Bosco.

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Cardinal George Update


From the Chicago SunTimes:

Cardinal Francis George weathered well a five-hour operation Thursday to remove his bladder, prostate gland, part of his right ureter and several lymph nodes, but the prognosis for his newly diagnosed cancer won't be known until late next week, when pathology results are back, his doctors said.

"I'm happy to report good news," Dr. Myles Sheehan, George's personal physician of three years who is also a Jesuit priest, told reporters at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood about an hour after the cardinal's surgery was completed. "We are very hopeful for the best possible result, and we are confident that the cardinal will be able to return to his active work as the archbishop of Chicago."

George, 69, announced Wednesday that he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer and would undergo radical surgery. Thursday, his physicians at Loyola revealed that George also suffers from cancer of the ureter, which is generally considered more dangerous than bladder cancer.

See the article for the rest and please continue to keep the Cardinal in your prayers.

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Sheen Miracle


The Catholic Post fills in the details on the Champaign miracle being submitted for Fulton Sheen's beatification.

The documents sealed in Peoria tell the story of the recovery of Therese Kearney, a member of Holy Cross Parish in Champaign, who suffered a tear in her main pulmonary artery during surgery in December of 1999. Told there was little chance for his wife’s survival, her husband Frank prayed to Archbishop Sheen, whom he had long admired.

Mrs. Kearney, then in her early 70s, would survive as surgical staples held despite her infected arterial wall having the consistency of "wet toilet paper," according to the surgeon.

Mrs. Kearney died this Tuesday in Champaign, The Catholic Post learned Wednesday as it was going to press. Her husband, who first shared Therese’s story with persons promoting Archbishop Sheen’s cause in 2001 and actively cooperated with the fact-gathering, had died earlier this year in February.

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Prayers for Cardinal George


The archbishop of my hometown has cancer and is undergoing surgery this morning. Please pray for Cardinal Francis George.

Cardinal George's Statement:

“Tomorrow morning I will undergo surgery at Loyola University Medical Center to remove cancer discovered very recently in my bladder. I am informed that I can expect to make a full recovery from this cancer and the surgery to remove it. I have asked my doctors and Archdiocesan officials to fully brief you after the surgery on the specifics of the operation and my recovery. During my recovery and absence, Father John Canary, the Vicar General, will provide day to day governance of the Archdiocese. He and the Auxiliary Bishops and Mr. Jimmy Lago, the Chancellor, will be in contact with me as necessary.

I ask my fellow priests, the religious, all Catholics in the Archdiocese and other friends and colleagues to pray for me. I trust that the Lord will give me the strength and grace I need during these next days and weeks.”

I imagine an update will be posted at the same website as the Cardinal's statement as soon as word is received of how the surgery went.

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Here is a translation from Zenit of the address Pope Benedict gave at a prayer vigil for peace in the Holy Land.

Here is an excerpt, but please read the whole thing:

To trust means to enter actively in this divine love, to participate in this endeavor of pacification, to be in line with what the Lord says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, the agents of peace, because they are the sons of God." We must take, in the measure of our possibilities, our love to all those who are suffering, knowing that the Judge of the Last Judgment identifies himself with those who suffer.

Therefore, what we do to those who suffer, we do to the Last Judge of our life. This is important: At this moment we can take his victory to the world, taking part actively in his charity. Today, in a multicultural and multireligious world, many are tempted to say: "For peace in the world, among religions, among cultures, it is better not to speak too much of what is specific to Christianity, that is, of Jesus, of the Church, of the sacraments. Let us be content with what can be more or less common."

But it is not true. Precisely at this time, a time of great abuse of the name of God, we have need of the God who overcomes on the cross, who does not conquer with violence, but with his love. Precisely at this time we have need of the Face of Christ to know the true Face of God and so be able to take reconciliation and light to this world. For this reason, together with love, with the message of love, we must also take the testimony of this God, of God's victory, precisely through the nonviolence of his cross.

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More Schlitz


About 10 minutes after finishing the last post, I came across another writing by Elizabeth Schlitz. This one is an op-ed piece in Business Week defending her decision not to abort her Down's Syndrome baby.

From time to time, we are all confronted with the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how others see us. I've always seen myself as a responsible, law-abiding citizen. I recycle, I vote, I don't drive a Hummer. But I've come to realize that many in the scientific and medical community view me as grossly irresponsible. Indeed, in the words of Bob Edwards, the scientist who facilitated the birth of England's first test-tube baby, I am a "sinner." A recent book even branded me a "genetic outlaw." My transgression? I am one of the dwindling number of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome and choose not to terminate our pregnancies.

It's a longish piece, but well worth the read.

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Benedict the Augustinian


Over at Mirror of Justice, ("A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory") new blogger Elizabeth Schiltz's first post is "Benedict XVI on Women and St. Augustine". In it she quotes a passage of Ratzinger's on the Marian dimension of the Church and asks:

My first question is whether this Marian dimension of the Church finds much (or any) expression in Catholic Social Teaching or Catholic Legal Thought. Or do we run the professional risk, as legal academics trying to change the world through our blogging, conferencing, and even old-fashioned paper articles, of “treating the Church almost like some technological device that we plan and make with enormous cleverness and expenditure of energy”?

My second question is about St. Augustine. At the UST Summer Seminar, much was made of the fact that Benedict is very “Augustinian”, in contrast to JPII, who was apparently much more Thomistic. Indeed, Benedict certainly does seem to quote Augustine a lot in the things I’ve read so far. As someone whose familiarity with Augustine consists of having read The City of God in college, and more recently reading Gary Will’s biography of Augustine, I was too timid to ask what that meant in the roomful of philosophers and theologians at the seminar. Do any of you have any thoughts about this distinction between JPII and Benedict? More importantly, though, is this distinction likely to make any practical difference with respect to any of the issues of interest to MOJ?

Unfortunately, nobody has taken up the first question over at MOJ (Mama-Lu has: her answer is "No, it doesn't), but in response to the second question, Thomas Berg chimes in with several points, two of which I wish to highlight:

He is somewhat more pessimistic about the world and the possibilities for the Church benefiting from secular thought. Not totally pessimistic, but more so, compared with the Thomistic emphasis on human reason in which both Christians and non-Christians share...

Does this contrast with John Paul II? I'm no expert on this. But wasn't there frequently a sense in his writings that he was calling the world back to its highest and deepest principles -- protection of life, true freedom, and so forth -- rather than claiming that the orientation of the world was more fundamentally and deeply flawed (the Augustinian emphasis)? Again, no polar opposites here, but possibly differences in emphasis.

In his writings on economic life, John Paul II is relatively positive about the market system and the opportunities it affords for human growth and creativity. Not unqualifiedly so, of course, but reasonably positive: a kind of "two cheers for capitalism," as Joseph Bottum put it last year. Augustinians, according to the article I cited above, tend to "take a more critical approach, arguing that there are economic practices characteristic of [global capitalism] that cannot be squared with the social teaching of the Church." This may fit with Bottum's assessment that Benedict has given and will give only "one cheer for capitalism": that, although certainly no socialist, he "stands to the left of his predecessor on economic issues."

The other point:

"This Augustinian orientation has made the new pope more sensitive to issues of spirituality in the life of faith" in contrast with a relatively greater Thomisic emphasis on reason. That's a quote from evangelical theologian, and a leader in the evangelical-Catholic discussions, Timothy George. I doubt that there's much difference from John Paul II here -- didn't he place a great deal of emphasis on spirituality (although it seems to have come from other philosophical sources)? In any event, the analysis I cited in #1 adds:
Pope Benedict is one of the many members of his
generation who, while not disagreeing with the content of Thomist thought, believed that the scholastic presentation of the faith doesn't exactly set souls on fire unless they happen to be a particular type of soul with a passion for intellectual disputation. He has said that "scholasticism has its greatness, but everything is impersonal."

In contrast, with Augustine "the passionate, suffering, questioning man is always right there, and you can identify with him."

This last point really rings true over here. I know Aquinas was a great saint; I know how important the Summa and the rest of his works are, but engaging them leaves me cold. The very words sed contra give me frostbite (apologies to David Morrison. I have no problem with Aquinas: I don't disagree with him, and I really do believe that the scholastic approach is good and necessary to elucidate truths of faith and of natural reason, and God bless those who take up that particular yoke in order to get to the bottom of things, but yaaaaaaawn... Yet another reason to love Benedict (without dissing JP2, of course). And yet another reason to love the Catholic Church, with its diversity of spirituality that allows me to respect and admire the indespensible and world-changing contributions of Thomas Aquinas while opting to reach for my beloved Augustine's Confessions.

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Here's a tip to anybdy who wants something of me: just compliment my kids and you're in.

In that spirit, I direct you to Benedictxvithemagnificent.com, the site of a French artist who has portraits of the Holy Father for sale.

Speaking of my kids, expect to see an update of new pictures soon. Our digital camera was mislocated for a while, and we just found it last night.

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A miracle for Fulton Sheen?


A miracle involving a Champaign woman has been submitted in support of the cause for beatification of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen. The miracle involves a Champaign woman whose husband invoked Sheen's aid to heal a tear in her main pulmonary artery.

Catholic News Agency reports:

"Fulton Sheen is one the shining gems of the diocese [of Peoria]," said Msgr. Stewart Swetland, director of homiletics and pre-theology at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, at the signing Sunday.

"Sheen was a pioneer in the use of social means of communication and predated (the Second Vatican Council document) Inter Mirifica and was in some ways a forerunner for the work that Karol Wojtyla [later Pope John Paul II] was able to do in the vast social communications of his pontificate."

Msgr. Swetland said the way Archbishop Sheen delivered the truths of the faith have an impact to this day. "I am constantly amazed that, even with the great increases in the sophistication of media technologies, so many still enjoy listening to or watching his recordings from the 1950s and 60s."

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Quasi-wisdom from JP2


"The luminous light of harmonious relations will celebrate worldwide human wisdom."

"The mysterious liturgy of peace will enlighten, in some sense, our dialogue of hope."

"The unfathomable light of the Church's other lung will illumine today's great hope for peace."

"The unprecedented depth of our elder brothers in the Faith will further the cause of acceptance of the Church's dialogue of hope."

"The renewing mystery of modern life will deepen , in some sense, our solidarity."

Inspiring words from the late Holy Father Pope John Paul II?

Not quite.

Those are phrases produced by the Pope John Paul II Random Speech Generator.

Boy, I could click that button all day. Good stuff, fellas.

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Sacred Heart of Jesus

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Zenit has a brief interview with French Cardinal Albert Vanhoye on the Sacred Heart and Humility. Cardinal Vanhoye is a Jesuit who was created a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in this year's conclave.

A snip:

Q: Benedict XVI's message to Father Kolvenbach, general director of the Society of Jesus, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Pius XII's encyclical Haurietis Acquas on the Sacred Heart, has re-launched this subject.

Cardinal Vanhoye: The Pope wished to underline the anniversary forcefully precisely with a message because the Society of Jesus was always active in promoting this fundamental devotion, above all thanks to the Apostleship of Prayer and to its proposal of spirituality not at all sentimental but which involves the whole of human existence.

Now in the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI speaks several times of the pierced side and of the Heart of Jesus, true source of love. It is clear also in the Pope's words that the devotion to the Sacred Heart cannot stay only with the humanity of Jesus, precisely because the latter is expression of the love of God for the world that can be experienced and therefore witnessed only by looking at that pierced side.

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Of course it was worth it


Journalist and long time St. Blogger Robert Duncan has a great article about the World Meeting of Families over at Spero news.

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Pope: Pray for Peace


From the Vatican press office:

The Holy Father is following with great concern the destinies of all the peoples involved and has proclaimed this Sunday, July 23, as a special day of prayer and penance, inviting the pastors and faithful of all the particular Churches, and all believers of the world, to implore from God the precious gift of peace.

In particular, the Supreme Pontiff hopes that prayers will be raised to the Lord for an immediate cease-fire between the sides, for humanitarian corridors to be opened in order to bring help to the suffering peoples, and for reasonable and responsible negotiations to begin to put an end to objective situations of injustice that exist in that region, as already indicated by Pope Benedict XVI at the Angelus last Sunday, July 16.

In reality, the Lebanese have the right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected, the Israelis, the right to live in peace in their state, and the Palestinians have the right to have their own free and sovereign homeland.

At this sorrowful moment, His Holiness also makes an appeal to charitable organizations to help all the people struck by this pitiless conflict.

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Happy Belated Feast Day!


I wish the Carmelites of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles (at least one of whom I know visits here on occasion) as well as all those consecrated and/or devoted to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, including all who wear the brown scapular, a joyous and blessed (though belated) feast day. The feast fell yesterday, Sunday July 16. For most of us the feast was trumped by the weekly celebration of the Lord's resurrection, but I'm sure there were good times in Alhambra.

Here are the words of the Holy Father before and after praying the Angelus on this feast of Our Lady:

By a happy coincidence, this Sunday is July 16, day in which the liturgy remembers the Most Holy Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Carmel, high promontory that rises on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, at the altitude of Galilee, has in its folds numerous natural grottoes, favorites of hermits.

The most famous of these men of God was the great prophet Elias, who in the 9th century before Christ, courageously defended the purity of the faith in the one true God from contamination by idolatrous cults. Inspired in the figure of Elias, the contemplative order of Carmelites arose, a religious family that counts among its members great saints such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of the Child Jesus and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in the world, Edith Stein).

The Carmelites have spread in the Christian people devotion to the Most Holy Virgin of Mount Carmel, pointing to her as a model of prayer, contemplation and dedication to God. Mary, in fact, before and in an unsurpassable way, believed and felt that Jesus, the incarnate Word, is the culmination, the summit of man's encounter with God.

Fully accepting the Word, "she happily reached the holy mountain" (Prayer of the Collect of the Memorial), and lives forever, in soul and body, with the Lord. To the Queen of Mount Carmel I wish to commend today all the communities of contemplative life spread throughout the world, especially those of the Carmelite Order, among which I remember the convent of Quart, not far from here. May Mary help every Christian to meet God in the silence of prayer.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said the following words:]

In recent days the news from the Holy Land is a reason for new and grave concern for all, in particular because of the spread of warlike actions also in Lebanon, and because of the numerous victims among the civilian population. At the origin of these cruel oppositions there are, sadly, objective situations of violation of law and justice. But neither terrorist acts nor reprisals, especially when they entail tragic consequences for the civilian population, can be justified. By such paths, as bitter experiences shows, positive results are not achieved.

This day is dedicated to the Virgin of Carmel, Mount of the Holy Land that, a few kilometers from Lebanon, dominates the Israeli city of Haifa, the latter also recently hit. Let us pray to Mary, Queen of Peace, to implore from God the fundamental gift of concord, bringing political leaders back to the path of reason, and opening new possibilities of dialogue and agreement. In this perspective I invite the local Churches to raise special prayers for peace in the Holy Land and in the whole of the Middle East.

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The Mind of Europe

Between 1994 and 2004, various European institutions have condemned the Holy See on 29 occasions for supposed violations of human rights, while Cuba has been condemned only 25 times and China just 15.
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The editors of Adoremus get a little snarky:

One hundred and three years after Pope Pius X called for liturgical reform, and “actual participation” of the people at Mass, in Tra le sollecitudini;

Forty-three years after the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which permitted use of vernacular languages at Mass;

It goes on and on...

On a very slightly more productive note (if you're a liturgy nerd), Adoremus also has a transcript of the USCCB debate leading up to the vote that approved the new liturgy translations, as well as the text of the widely-praised address by Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, England, Chairman of ICEL, that preceded the debate.

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Pope Writing Book on Jesus

Pope Benedict is writing a book on Jesus that will become the second major theological work of his pontificate, a Vatican source said on Tuesday.

The book, expected to be completed by the end of the summer, focuses on Jesus, the human race and Christianity's relationship with other faiths.

The work, which Benedict started before becoming pope in April 2005, comes at a time when he seeks to restore a strong sense of faith among Catholics in the face of growing secularism and competition form other religions, including Islam.

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HPV Vaccine


John Bambenek has a post on the new HPV vaccine, recently approved and soon to be distrubuted to 12-year old girls in your local middle school. This reminds me of something else I heard on that On Point show I blogged about earlier this week.

The vaccine targets strains of HPV that are known to lead to cervical cancer. The vaccine is thus being touted by some as a "cancer vaccine." The problem is that it only prevents about 70% of cancer-causing HPV strains, and its effectiveness is in such doubt that Janet Gilsdorf, Chair of the HPV Working Group for the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says an 11 or 12 year old girl receiving the vaccine will hace her chance of getting cervical cancer decreased by 20-66%.

Now, yeah sure 20% less cancer is good. But how many times have you heard this figure mentioned? Isn't it a little disingenuous to tout a "cancer vaccine" whose effectiveness could be as low as 20%? How many young girls receiving this vaccine will have an unjustified sense of being protected from this virus and from cervical cancer?

A real argument can be made that this vaccine will do more harm than goodUnfortunately, there's no way to quantify a "false sense of security," so we'll never know and proponents will continue to paint people with real concerns about this as puritanical fascists while they go on encouraging teenage kids to live in a fantasy land of consequence-free sex.

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More Crunchies

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After writing last night's post, I guess I should write what I actually think about Crunchy Cons: I didn't like it all that much.

I know that may be hard to believe considering this post below, but bear with me. Rod Dreher put his finger on a real problem with modern American culture, especially among those with more traditional values: many of us preach certain virtues but we do not understand that the way we live our lives undermines those very virtues.

So far so good, the problem is that Dreher's book is terribly argued and too full of his own life story, holding it up as the ideal. He says repeatedly that he and his family are not perfect and that you don't have to be Rod Dreher to be virtuous, but his constant self-reference and didactic tone are grating. I found myself skimming paragraphs and keeping track of the authors he cites so I can read their work instead.

Politically, Dreher's mistake is in conflating conservatives with Republican party elites. That's a fight I don't care too much about, but it's worth pointing out that the two are not the same. Different parts of Rod's critique apply to each of those groups, and when he says "mainstream conservatives" do such and such, or don't do such and such (like, say, mainstream conservatives don't breasteed), you have to wonder if this comes from his experience in Republican-elite circles as part of his career as a big-city newspaper editor and is not exactly the way things look in, say, Alabama.

So, let's leave all of that aside, and get to what the reader should take away from the book. American culture is too mindless, and needs to be more reflective. Free market: good. Increased food production capabilities: good. Rapid development of technology and the ability to communicate globally, instantly: good. The unquestioned and usually use of these relatively recent (in the sense of the broad history of man) developments in a way that (usually unintentionally) destroys families, culture and lives: not so good.

The disheartening thing about reading Dreher's critics is the frequent denial that our every day decisions have a moral dimension and their corresponding assertions that the way we shop, eat and live are simply matters of taste. Unfortunately, the tone of Crunchy Cons opens up Dreher to the charge that the lifestyle he espouses is only accessible to rich urban elites, but the truth is that everybody is capable of making sacrifices for the sake of being a better person and to support and build a better culture and community.

But here, we have to qualify in a way that Dreher does not - at least not sufficiently: many people simply cannot, or perceive that they cannot, make different choices, and to criticize them for it is wrong as well as futile. Some people really can't afford free-range chicken and grass-fed beef. Some people think they need to live in a suburban subdivision to keep their families safe. These people are doing their best to make life work and do what's right by their families in their daily circumstances, and calling them greedy, hypocritical or unserious is not helpful. Unfortunately, Dreher comes off as hostile to normal people who are simply trying to make sense out of a crazy-a** world, when he should have concentrated more on the unintented consequences on the choices they - and all of us - make.

Crunchy Cons is a call to reflect seriously on the everyday choices we make in how we shop, what we eat, how we educate our children. It's an argument that seemingly small decisions have personal, cosmic and cultural ramifications. Not everybody needs to homeschool and not everybody needs to eat organic vegetables, but no parent should unquestioningly entrust their child's education to the state and no consumer should be ignorant of the nutritious and agricultural costs of modern farming and food industry. Not everybody will make the decision to go organic or vegetarian, but some will find a desire to support their local family farmers in some small way, or will decide to be more vigilant about putting transfats and chemicals into their bodies.

Even though Crunchy Cons fails as a manifesto, the underlying call to strive to make moral choices and to make a conscious effort to build and support the local community is a message America needs to hear. I just wish somebody else would make the case.

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Theological-Pastoral Congress on the Family


Not to be forgotten amidst the coverage of the Pope's visit last week to Valencia, Spain for the 5th World Meeting of Families was the theological congress that preceded it.

Here is Zenit's coverage of the opening proceedings.

Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna, Italy, gave the address, in which he said "[t]here is no doubt that the clear perception of the value, of the very preciousness of marriage, is today being gradually obscured."

"In my judgment, the most emblematic event of this obscuring is that on Jan. 18, 2006, with 468 votes in favor, 149 opposed and 41 abstentions, the European Parliament approved a resolution which calls for equating homosexual couples with those of man and woman and condemns as homophobic those states and countries that are opposed to the recognition of gay couples," lamented Cardinal Caffarra.

More coverage:

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Give Credit Where Credit is Due


In light of certain people boasting this week about the decreased budget deficit, I have to give it to them: only this President and this Congress could spend us into a record deficit and then brag about cutting it with a straight face. Thanks, boys!

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That sound...


...you hear is the simultaneous explosion of the heads of NEA officials.

Extending the school year will have the added benefit of helping to make teaching a full-time, more lucrative profession for educators who choose to work in these schools.

Apparently, this man is not interested in his plan going anywhere. Education reform is rarely achieved by jabbing at teachers' eyes with a sharp stick.

He does make some good points, but I don't know if more institutional schooling is exactly what American children need.

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Or just d***n good luck?

Live Science: Moms Prefer Smell of Their Own Baby's Poop

Scientists find that moms consistently rank the stink of their baby's "number two" as No. 1.

In a new study, 13 mothers were asked to sniff soiled diapers belonging to both their own child and others from an unrelated baby. The women consistently ranked the smell of their own child's feces as less revolting than that of other babies.

This effect persisted even when the diapers were purposely mislabeled.

One possible explanation is that the mothers were simply more accustomed to their their baby's stink and therefore found it less repulsive. A more intriguing possibility, the researchers say, is that the mothers' reactions are an evolutionary adaptation allowing them to overcome their natural disgust so that they can properly care for their babies.

Hat-tip to the Family Scholars Blog.

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On On Point today:

"I was raised by a wonderful conservative Catholic family and we did not promote sexual promiscuity... I had a handful of partners, and I'm stunned that I have this virus. I don't know how I got it or by who because I had so few partners."

Sigh. I mean no harm to this woman. She is in a very difficult situation, and I hope her mistake doesn't prove to be fatal, but this kind of statement reveals the naivete that's been hammered into our young people's heads by the "safe-sex" crowd.

Later in the show, we get to hear Katha Pollitt opine about how "disturbing" it is that some parents have an "obsession with keeping young people away from sex."

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First Things and the Crunchies


Anthony Sacramone embarrasses First Things by blogging a nonsensical diatribe against Rod Dreher's book, Crunchy Cons, that could only have been penned by an urban intellectual snob.

He starts by granting the entire premise of Crunchy Cons:

All right, it’s not the apogee of spirituality to log on and buy the latest iteration of an iPod or an iMac or an eyesore of a Hummer. And yes, it’s probably wise to limit your daily consumption of pesticides to roughly half your bodyweight. I’ll grant you that kids are probably spending way too much time wide-eyed in front of the flat panel ogling yet another edition of Grand Theft Auto or the director’s cut of Girls Gone Wild 13—Logical Positivists Stripped Bare. It also couldn’t hurt to be able to distinguish between one type of tree and another type of tree, if just to make a more detailed report for the police when you drive into one while talking on your cell.

Gee, is that another way of saying that total immersion in modern consumerist culture has side effects we don't realize? I believe that's the major theme of Crunchy Cons. Apparently Mr. Sacramone must only be angry that Rod Dreher drew conclusions from those premises.

He then goes on to rant about how great the city is because there, "cultural barbarities do us all the favor of advertising the Fall without our having to read about all those 'begats' once again," and how the virtues of the rural life are overrated because "Farmer Jones" practices the same vices as city dwellers, just "on smaller luxuries, more primitive needs, and stockier women."

Fair enough, but Dreher himself lives in Dallas, Texas, which if I recall from the seven-hour layover I had there last month, ain't exactly Smallville. Again, the actual argument in the book is not that you have to go back to the farm to live a moral life, but that modern culture's disdain for the rural life says something not nice about the culture (something on partial display in Scaparone's post, btw). Yes, Rod offers praise to those who strike out to the country seeking a way to make a calmer, more peaceful life for themselves. He does not prescribe this for everybody.

Then comes the obligatory hypocrisy slam that all Crunchy Cons critics throw out:

And how many of those countrified ex-urbans bootleg Palm Pilots, Blackberries, and wirelessly networked laptops like so many bottles of Prohibition-era gin—if for no other reason than to keep their blogs live and comment-moderating in order to warn the rest of us how the modern age is killing us softly.

Once, again, let's remember the actual point of the book. All modern technology is not bad; unquestioning acceptance of it and the unchecked desire to accumulate more of it is. There is nothing inherently wrong with the Internet, but humanity is not served by a complete mechanization and digitalization of culture and the resulting disintegration of community. Has anybody seriously engaged that argument? Scarpone doesn't.

The most remarkable part of this rant, however, is the concluding two paragraphs. First, more backhanded slaps at stupid country bumpkins:

The country, I’ll concede, may be where you find community, if by that you mean your next-door neighbor walking uninvited through your canted screen door to borrow a few shotgun shells to dust back yet another coyote. But it is also where you will find the same old prejudices, superstitions, and gross habits masquerading as traditions. Not that the big city is bereft of such things, but at least you’re confronted with competing and contradictory prejudices, superstitions, and habits. In short, it’s hard to stay a city person for long and not be made aware that there’s someone else out there—probably right down the hall in a nicer apartment—who thinks you’re an idiot.

So what is the great virtue of the city? What is it about New York that you just can't find in Watseka?

Brace yourselves:

And if that’s not spiritual—to be humbled by people richer and more powerful, smarter and more beautiful, than you—then I don’t know what is. Humility, not to mention a nagging, gnawing sense of want for all those things you’re never going to get, is the springboard of true conversion. So draw the blinds, praise the Lord, and pass the universal remote.

Yes, humility is the great urban virtue. Humility spurred by the virtues of greed and envy. Scarpone has just spent 800 words ridiculing stupid, racist, backwards yokels of "Hicksville" with their "stockier women," "bib overalls," and "gross habits masquerading as traditions" so he can preach the virtue of humility.

All this, yet not one word about the book that Rod Dreher wrote.

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We Hates Meeses to Pieces


Hidden camera catches mice on airplane.

OK, ick factor aside. here's the scary part:

The whistle blower said workers found nests in air vents and dead mice in emergency oxygen masks. When mice would get hungry, they ate insulation and chewed through wires.

"If they shorted themselves and caused a fire, it would go through that cabin so fast, we could have lost some lives," said the whistleblower...

On May 5, 2006, a caller reported a mouse infestation. The complaint went on to say that mice chewed through two wires. The caller alleged American Airlines was doing nothing about eradicating the mice.

On May 10, 2006, a caller reported that mice were building nests near the oxygen generators.

The whistleblower said, "Anywhere from 900 to 1,000 (mice) could be on this aircraft."

How many ways can we make air travel terrifying?

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The Baby Bump

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Regina Marie, do not read this post.

Well, it's been a while since I've had something about the boys up here, so here's a little anecdote for you.

As with many toddlers, Matthew seems to grasp "b" words fastest. Words like, to grab three at random, baby, bump and the name of a friend of ours, who for privacy's sake I'll call "Betty."

Well, Betty is pregnant, and since Matthew loves babies, we told him she was having a baby. Oh how happy he was that day! "Betty, Betty, Betty, baby, baby, baby!" he repeated all day.

And then we made a mistake. We told him that BeTTY (thanks Lisa) was going to have a "baby bump" because her and her husband, who I'll call Jim, were having a baby.

You see a bump, to my son, is when you run into something, or fall and hit your head. A small mound is not a bump to him yet.

So how did this information process in his mind?

Well, first he was knocking himself on the head saying "Betty, bump baby."

No, we explained, Jim and Betty are having a baby... baby bump, etc.

Well, after some more mental wheel-turning, Matthew's final conclusion was that Jim had somehow "bumped" Betty and now she's pregnant.

And that, my friends, is how a euphemism is born.

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Civil War


All right, it's war dangit.

I hereby call upon the north side to take up arms and storm the south side with violent fury.

Carlos Zambrano whacked on pitching arm with bat by White Sox coach.

What? We don't have enough problems?

Or as one of the Cub Reporters put it: "Next up on the Cubs injury front, Aramis Ramirez gets nailed by an anvil after rounding second base."

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Where are the nuns?

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NPR investigates.

Prompted by NPR's intrepid reporting, I performed my own investigation.

The answer? Here they are!

Oh, no wait, here they are!

Ooh look, I found some more!

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Sad Prayer Request


Catholic author Regina Doman, who wrote our favorite gift for expecting parents, lost her four year old son yesterday. Please say a prayer for her family and for the repose of Joshua Michael's soul.

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Here's a quick roundup of coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Valencia, Spain to close the 5th World Meeting of Families.

  • The Vatican website has the texts of the Holy Father's addresses. Some snips from the major addresses appear at the end of this post.

  • Estimates on attendance at the Sunday Mass range from several hundred thousand to 1.5 million. Spanish president Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was conspicuously though not exactly surprisingly absent from the Mass. The whole world knows where his sympathies rest, and he felt no need to make a show otherwise.

  • In addition to the major addresses, the Pope made a stop to lay a wreath at the site of last week's train cash that killed 41 people earlier. The Pope later met with families of victims of the crash and prayed an Our Father with them. Here's a particularly moving picture of that encounter.

  • The best pictures of the trip I've found are here. Most of the pics are screen captures posted by devoted Benedict fans.

  • John Allen was in Valencia for the Holy Father's visit, and as always provides detailed coverage. His reports can be found here and here.

  • Click on the link below for excerpts of the Holy Father's major addresses. Better yet, click here and read 'em all.

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Yes, I'm a native English speaker whose second best language is French, but Spanish is in my blood and I can't help but wonder if the Knights of Columbus would be a greater draw (not that they're suffering now) if they were known by their organizations's Spanish name of Los Caballeros de Colón. And surely, wouldn't Carl Anderson rather be known as El Caballero Supremo rather than the somewhat KKK-ish sounding Supreme Knight.

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Politics and the Pope in Spain


The UK Tablet and Robert Duncan at Spero News (originally published in the National Catholic Register) both take a look at this weekend's papal trip to the World Meeting of Families in light of the Spain's socialist government's progressive social agenda.

Some snips from Duncan's piece:

While many of the international pilgrims may be oblivious to the thick atmosphere, many Spanish Catholics are hoping Pope Benedict’s 24-hour visit to Valencia will be a breath of fresh air infusing the Church’s faithful with the stamina to challenge the permissive platform of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s government.


[T}he socialist government — which came to power in March 2004 — [has promoted] a litany of legislation that clashes with Church teaching. Such measures include the passing of same-sex “marriage” legislation, fast-track divorces, reform of religious education, embryonic stem-cell research funding and suggestions that abortion laws could be eased.


Less than two weeks prior to the kickoff of the World Meeting of Families, Spain’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs promoted another “family” congress being held in Valencia. The gathering, intended to highlight “diverse” forms of families, is sponsored by the State Federation of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transsexuals and by the Union of Family Associations, chaired by Maria del Carmen Toledano Rico, a Socialist Party politician from the town of Galapagar.


The Catholic citizen activist website Hazteoir (Make Yourself Heard) claims the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs contributed more than 300,000 euros last year to similar alternative lifestyle meetings.

While Duncan focuses on the struggle between Spanish Catholics and the Spanish government, the Tablet portrays the situation as a "showdown" between the Pope and the Spanish governement. The unsigned Tablet piece (perhaps written by Robert Mickens) speculates that recent statements by the Pope and by the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, may have shifted attention away from the theme of the meeting, "Transmission of the Faith in the Family" and towards a more general "culture war" (my term, not the Tablet's) against the Spanish government.

Despite this claim, we can expect that Pope Benedict's major addresses in Spain will stick to the the passing on of the faith while saving the politics for his meeting with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. It would be greatly underestimating the Pope to think he's going to let politics overshadow this event. That said, it would not be suprising for him to connect the importance of handing down the truths of faith to the handing down of the truth about the human person from one generation to the next and to point to that as the vehicle for social renewal.

The Tablet also notes that two Spanish Catholic theologians have "signed a petition protesting against the Spanish Government’s sanctioning and partial funding of the religious event. They have opposed it on the ground that the Vatican 'imposes a model of the family based on exclusion'."

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Communion Under both Species


A commenter asks:

When I was younger, I'm 50, we didn't have anything to drink at Communion. All we got was the dry wafer.
Why & when did they change it?

Short answer:

WHY: To encourage fuller participation in the Mass by Catholics.
WHEN: After the Second vatican Council.

I sorta knew the answer off the top of my head, but thinking about it made me realize it's been a long time since I read any of the Church's liturgy documents, so just for fun, I decided to reseach a slightly more thorough answer.

Long answer:

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Utterly Bizaare Linkage


The post two down from here, about the "new" Communion vessel rules, is drawing tons of hits from Bird Flu News site.

Apparently, that post makes this one of "The-Best-Bird-Flu-Blogs: The most Informative, interesting & controversial, Avian Flu, H5N1 Blogs."

Either there are not very many H5N1 blogs out there or perhaps BirdFluBreakingNews.com isn't the best source for all your bird-flu needs.

Not that I don't appreciate the traffic, I guess...

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Ponnuru v. Sullivan XXXVII

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Andrew Sullivan once again runs into the brick wall that is Ramesh Ponnuru.




Ramesh comes out on top, again, though Sullivan does make in an interesting point here.

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What's wrong with this sentence?

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via CWN's Off theRecord.

Practices effective immediately include priests using only chalices and bowls made of precious metals for the distribution of holy communion. "Research has shown that metal chalices are less likely to contribute to the spread of diseases," church bird flu epidemic protocols state.

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MCs Always Take the Toughest Jobs


This is a stale piece from May, but I haven't seen it around much:

Missionaries of Charity open shop in Kabul.

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Zenit has a report of a Mass celebrating 70 years of priesthood for Father Marie-Dominique Philippe, founder of the Community of St. John. For Peoria folks, that's the same Brothers of St. John who have a priory in Princeville. The Community's website can be found here and the US Website is here.

I was poking around the webpages, and it seems Fr. Antoine of the Illinois group has several books published - primarily aimed at cultivating devotion to the Eucharist amoung children - that may be worth checking out.

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Blogging Bishops


The Spanish bishops are getting with the times.

The Spanish bishops conference has set up a blog (Spanish only, sorry) where the bishops will be live-blogging the World Meeting of Families.

As a reminder, the homepage of the meeting - whose theme is "Transmission of the Faith in the Family" - can be found here.

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NPR v. McMansions


Dear Mama-Lu,

I promise you will never have to live in an ugly, over-sized house with tons of wasted space.

Yer hubby

P.S. You don't need to listen to the audio, the link contains a transcript.

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World Meeting of Families


This week, the Catholic spotlight will be on Valencia, Spain where an International Family Fair, catechesis and theological forums are taking place leading up to next weekends's Fifth World Meeting of Families.

This past Sunday, Pope Benedict dedicated his weekly Angelus address to reflecting on the meaning of the event:

In short, the family is a living organism, where a mutual exchange of gifts takes place. What is important is that the word of God, which keeps the flame of faith alive, never be lacking. With a particularly significant gesture, during the rite of baptism, the godfather or godmother lights a candle from the great paschal candle, symbol of the risen Christ and then the celebrant says: "To you, parents and godparents, is entrusted the task of guarding this light so that this child, illuminated by Christ, may always live as a child of the light."

If this gesture, in which the whole meaning of the transmission of the faith in the family lies, is to be authentic, it must be preceded and accompanied by the parents' commitment to further their own knowledge of the faith, rekindling the flame with prayer and the assiduous practice of the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist.

Let us commend to the Virgin Mary the success of the forthcoming great Valencia meeting, and of all the families of the world so that they will be genuine communities of love and life, in which the flame of faith is transmitted from generation to generation.

On a sadder note, 41 people died in a subway accident in Valencia on Monday. Please pray for the repose of the soul of all killed and for peace of mind for all affected.

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Here is the full text of the address Pope Benedict delivered to the Orthodox delegation to the Vatican celebration of Sts. Peter and Paul (referenced in the post two down from here).

Here is a snip:

Dear Brothers in Christ,

With great joy and sincere affection in the Lord, I welcome today your eminence, Metropolitan Ioannis, and the other members of the delegation that his holiness Bartholomew I and the Holy Synod of the ecumenical patriarchate have graciously sent for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, patrons of the Church of Rome.

To each of you I offer my cordial greetings. It gives me pleasure to welcome you in the words of the Apostle Peter: "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Peter 1:1-2).

These words call to mind our common faith and the mystery of the salvation we have received, a gift which we must pass on to the men and women of our day. The fact that the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul is celebrated on the same day by both Catholics and Orthodox evokes our shared apostolic succession and ecclesial fraternity.

I am pleased to recall here how Byzantine hymnography attributes to St. Peter a title charged with meaning, that of "protocoryphaeus," the first in the choir who has the task of maintaining the harmony of the voices, for the glory of God and the service of his people.

I am therefore grateful to you who have come to unite your prayer to ours, prompted by our common commitment to continue the journey that leads us step by step to eliminate all dissonance from the choir of the one Church of Christ.

Read the rest.

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Papal Prayer Intentions for July


Here are the Holy Father's prayer intentions for the month of July:

General prayer intention: That all those who are in prison, and especially young people, may receive the necessary support from society to help them rediscover a sense to their own existence.

Missionary prayer intention: That, in the mission territories, different ethnic and religious groups may live in peace and together build a society inspired by human and spiritual values.

Posted from my in-law's front porch in a small central Illinois town. Hurrah for wireless!

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The Salesians


This week, John Allen uses the occasion of a Salesian becoming the new Vatican Secretary of State to devote half of his column to taking a look at that order, one of the Church's largest and most prominent, especially in the poorest areas of the world.

Some snips:

It's hardly an accident that the job went to a Salesian. In an era in which many of the great orders of the church have been rocked by internal ideological divisions, the Salesians are seen as robustly reliable -- not theological innovators, but down-to-earth pastors and educators, and generally with a good sense of humor.

"We're not complicated people," Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, another Salesian in a high place, told NCR June 25. "Our spirit is family, especially with the young and the poor."

Side note: Cardinal Maradiaga was on many commentators' papabile lists last year and at age 64 is on the younger side of the College of Cardinals. I don't know how credible that is, but the fact that he's a Salesian gives that possibility an added appealing dimension.

Back to Allen:

The great orders have usually been born in response to some crisis -- the Franciscans, for example, to urbanization and the need to evangelize the cities; the Jesuits to the Reformation, and the need for a Catholic counter-offensive.

For the Salesians, it was the Industrial Revolution, especially the zones of despair, turmoil and revolution on the outskirts of the great industrial cities.

St. John Bosco (1815-1888), known affectionately as "Don Bosco," was shocked by the plight of the poor in Turin, especially the young -- the peddlers, shoe polishers, stable-boys, factory workers, vendors, and errand boys who formed the lowest cogs in the wheels of the new industrial machine.

Bosco became a tireless catechist among the young, hearing confessions, saying Masses, and organizing "oratories" where his boys could play, study and worship. He was also something of a labor organizer, negotiating contracts for young apprentices insisting that employers use them only in their acknowledged trade, that corporal punishment be abandoned, that proper wages be paid, rest periods be honored, and that decent sanitary conditions be maintained.

Thus the Salesian pastoral model was forged: solid, orthodox Catholic piety; an "in-the-trenches" commitment to the young, the poor, and to education; and a smiling closeness to the people, as opposed to the rather foreboding and aloof profile of the typical Italian monsignore. (In this sense, Bertone's penchant for hanging out with young people in Genoa's discos, and offering color commentary for soccer matches, is considered classic Salesian behavior).

"Don Bosco wanted us to be religious with our sleeves rolled up, not afraid of hard work," [Fr. James Heuser, superior of the Eastern province of the Salesians in the United States,] said, "whether it's in the confessional, in the classroom, or on the soccer field."

Later in the column, Allen visits the scene of yesterday's Vatican celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul and notes the presence of the Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas:

As Benedict XVI processed into the basilica, he made a special point of spotting Zizioulas and smiling at him. Later, the two men exchanged the Sign of Peace. At the end of the Mass, Benedict and Zizioulas went down the stairs under the main altar together and prayed before what are believed to be the bones of St. Peter. The two prelates stood shoulder-to-shoulder, with no distinction in "rank."

Zizioulas pioneered the concept of "communion ecclesiology," the idea that the church is constituted by the celebration of the Eucharist around the bishop, which has had great influence also in Roman Catholicism in the period after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). In his own theological work, Joseph Ratzinger has written that the "ecclesiology of communion" is a useful point of departure, though he's warned that it must not exalt the local church at the expense of the universal. For his part, Zizioulas has argued that Orthodoxy can accept the universal primacy of the pope, if it is "fundamentally qualified," meaning that it respects the autonomy of local churches and acts through a synodal structure.


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This page is an archive of entries from July 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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