Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Friday, April 28, 2006

Vatican PR

A friend of mine brought this piece by John Allen to my attention. He interviewed a group of Catholic college students at the University of Texas. By in large, they love and respect John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and they embrace the Popes teachings wholeheartedly. However, they felt they Church's beautiful message was being lost because it is not communicated in a way that is relevant to the modern world. They seek a new modernization:

[These] 20-somethings share something of the desire of the Vatican II generation for a more "modern" church -- but, unlike Baby Boomers, by "modern" they mean technological sophistication and savvy about engaging the cultural debate, not doctrinal change or structural reform.

"The church has to modernize, not in the sense of changing its mind, but in strategies to communicate its ideas," said Puccini.

They bring up a good point, but they are barking up the wrong tree if they expect the Vatican or the USCCB to change their methods (although the latter is more maleable). The Church thinks in terms of centuries and has a multitude of cultures and peoples to evangelize. The Vatican does not have the resources adapt her message to the tastes of any particular demographic. Nevertheless, the need is there, but the vehicle to fill that need is the lay apostolate. Thus far, there are numerous lay organizations proclaiming the Church's message in ways very relevant to today's American culture. Here are a few of the best:

These sites do a good job of communicating the Church's message. But I cannot end this post without making a plug for the Catechism of the Catholic Church and for the Vatican website. They may be too dry for the tastes of John Allen's subjects, but they provide the Truth freely and clearly. Finally, let me once again recommend Pope Benedict's XVI Deus Caritas Est. It is very relevant and accessible to young people in the modern world.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Left Behind

I must confess a certain guilty pleasure in reading Jerry B. Jenkin's and Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series. They have a faced paced comic book feel and are subtly anti-Catholic, hence the guilty pleasure. One must remember they are fiction, although the authors believe the books have catechetical value. Here is one of their theological nuggets from the second book in the series:

The very first qualification of Messiah…is that he should be born the seed of a woman, not the seed of a man like all other human beings. We know now that women do not possess seed. The man provides the seed for the woman’s egg, and so this must be a supernatural birth…Our Messiah must be born of a woman and not of a man because he must be righteous. All other humans are born of the seed of their father, and thus the sinful seed of Adam has been passed on to them, not so with the Messiah born of a virgin.

Seed or no seed, we know 50% of the genetic material for the newly conceived human being comes from the woman. By that logic, wouldn’t she also need to be free from the sinful seed of Adam? It sounds like a compelling argument for the Immaculate Conception, but I doubt the authors see it that way.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I had to respond

The Observer printed this letter on April 6th:

University President Father John Jenkins attempted to close Pandora's Box in his "Closing Statement on Academic Freedom and Catholic Character." I, for one, had hoped that the University community would cultivate the discussion that arose out of Jenkins' speech on January 23, 2006 into a broad dialogue encompassing topics well beyond the initial issues. There are many policies existing at the University of Notre Dame, both official and unofficial, that are repugnant to Catholic doctrines. However, now that we've "settled" the gender issues, Jenkins seems unwilling to tackle any of the more difficult topics.

Take, for example, the University's position on the war in Iraq. Oh yes, the University most definitely has a position, which it clearly expresses through the Notre Dame ROTC Program. Now, anyone perceived as critical of the ROTC program opens himself up to a tidal wave of counter-attacks of being "unpatriotic," etc. In order to keep the focus on the real issue, academic freedom, I would like to clarify that I am not criticizing the ROTC program, only using it as a barometer of the University's support for the war. The University not only allows, but encourages the armed forces to recruit students and prospective students into the ROTC program. The University works in conjunction with the ROTC program to use University land, facilities and staff to promote and execute that recruitment (these same things constituted "sponsorship" with regards to the Queer Film Festival and Vagina Monologues).

The University does this in spite of Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D'Arcy's unequivocal sponsorship for the Vatican's position that the war in Iraq does not comport with Catholic doctrine of just war. The University backs the war notwithstanding the fact that the Catholic Church considers it immoral, but withdrew its "sponsorship" for the Vagina Monologues and the Queer Film Festival because the Catholic Church considers them immoral.

This apparent incongruity begs the question: what is so different about the war that President Jenkins closes debate before our community can discuss its place within the University's Catholic character? If any issue merits vigorous debate within the University's Catholic morality, it is the war. The University's ROTC program has trained hundreds of officers who have gone on to tours in Iraq since the war began there is even an Army ROTC Club of Iraq). Those officers have bravely and dutifully executed the policies of their Commander-in-Chief, policies that the Catholic Church considers unjust. Why isn't Jenkins leading (instead of stifling) the University in a discussion of how the University can maintain this support for the war in the face of its Catholic character?

Is it because Jenkins' concern over the gender issues was just a veiled response to the Board of Trustees and other powerful alumni? Is it because the University cannot afford to lose the economic juggernaut that is the Notre Dame ROTC program? I would like to believe the reason is simply that the University wishes not to offend its proud ROTC heritage. However, I am not quite that optimistic.

I invite Jenkins to prove me wrong, and reopen the discussion on academic freedom, starting with the topic of the University's position on the war. If he refuses, I would like to challenge the community to force the issue. If our community can engage in the sort of passionate and intelligent dialogue that surrounded the Vagina Monologues and the Queer Film Festival, surely we can handle Iraq.

James Parrot
class of 1999
April 5

I just had to respond. Here is what the Observer printed:

In his April 5 letter ("Pandora's box"), James Parrot argues that the presence of ROTC on Notre Dame's campus constitutes endorsement of the war in Iraq. Not so. The training of military officers has been part of Notre Dame's history for over sixty years, well before our country went to war in Iraq. Sustaining an ROTC program does not constitute endorsement of any particular military action, it simply recognizes the Church sanctioned right of nations to raise armies and defend themselves.

Since Parrot chose to compare sponsorship of ROTC with endorsement of "The Vagina Monologues," let me make another comparison. Unlike prostitution, sexual abuse of a minor and extramarital sex, which are always morally wrong, the rightness or wrongness of a particular military action is a matter of prudential judgment. George Weigel in the January 2003 issue of "First Things" offers a compelling argument justifying the invasion of Iraq in light of Catholic just war tradition.

Archbishop O'Brien of the Archdiocese of the Military Services says Catholics may, in good conscience, participate in the Iraq war. Catholic moral teaching allows room for
disagreement on this issue. Even if Notre Dame were to officially support the war in Iraq, it would not necessarily be contradicting the teachings of the Church. A discussion about the war in Iraq would be a good thing, but please leave the ROTC programs out of it.

Tom Aranda
Class of 1995
April 8

After Katrina

A photo taken by Diane in St. Bernard Parish. You can read her comments on her blog. Her stories should run in the Shreveport Times on Sunday.

UPDATE from Diane: For more background, this was taken in front of a home in Chalmette, La., about a block from Murphy Oil Co. You may remember that one of the tanks there spilled causing even more damage to the neighborhood already under several feet of water. The lines across Our Lady's face are left from the oil spill.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A charitable insight

A commenter at Amy's Open Book recommended everyone step back and read the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2478 reprinted here:

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:
Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.280
Good advice.

Blogging about V-Day

Many blogs have commented on Father Jenkins' decision not to ban the Vagina Monologues. Here are some that caught my eye. The Shrine of the Holy Whapping rightly claims the subject has been exhausted at Amy Wellborn's Open Book and therefore limit their commentary to quoting one interesting post by Phillip Bocock summarized as follows:

His conclusion, I think, can be summarized: "There is no such thing as a Catholic haven. Apart from its status as a Catholic University, Notre Dame can no longer be called a 'Catholic Haven'--is that bad, or realistic?" A question to which, again, I have no answer.

My answer: Notre Dame ceased being a Catholic haven a long time ago. When I was there, the Catholic character was strong, but it could hardly be considered an enclave like Steubenville, Ave Maria, or St. Thomas Aquinas. Those schools have their place and purpose, and a very good purpose. Notre Dame has chosen to engage the culture more directly and her esteem and notoriety make her uniquely positioned to do so.

First Things also commented on this subject. Steven Barr calls Father Jenkins' statement "a surrender." Many people share his opinion. Father Richard John Neuhaus does not go that far and admits to being "wishy washy" on the subject. He concludes however:

It was a judgment call, and I think Fr. Jenkins probably came down on the wrong side. But I resist the conclusion that this decision is the defining moment in his promising leadership of Notre Dame.

Once again, I agree with Father Neuhaus except for his opinion that Fr. Jenkins came down on the wrong side.

Readers interested in this subject should check out The Shrine of the Holy Whapping and First Things . There is much more there than I could summarize in this space.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Final Word on the Monologues

Father Jenkins recently issued a closing statement concerning Notre Dame's recent discussion of academic freedom. He concluded that his original decision of holding controversial events in academic environments should be the model for the future:

Thanks to the efforts of some faculty members, this year's performance of The Vagina Monologues was brought into dialogue with Catholic tradition through panels which followed each performance. Panelists presented the Catholic teaching on human sexuality, and students and faculty engaged one another and these issues in serious and informed discussion. These panels taught me and perhaps taught others that the creative contextualization of a play like The Vagina Monologues can bring certain perspectives on important issues into a constructive and fruitful dialogue with the Catholic tradition. This is a good model for the future. Accordingly, I see no reason to prohibit performances of The Vagina Monologues on campus, and do not intend to do so.

I cannot remember a time when The Vagina Monologues sparked so much discussion of the theological issues surrounding human sexuality. I was pleased to read opinions in the Observer which promote Pope John Paul's II Theology of the Body. I am also gratified to know students who heard the play on campus were also given the opportunity to hear the Church's beautiful teaching on the subject.

I agree with Father Jenkins. A Catholic university cannot shy away from controversial subjects. Notre Dame must engage the destructive elements of our culture with the Truth.

In his most recent statement about the Monologues, Bishop D'Arcy of South Bend/Fort Wayne quoted a letter he received from Lisa Everett:
The monologues have become, in fact, a cultural phenomenon, and a Catholic university could have a fine contribution to make in analyzing why that has happened, what the appeal of the play is, and why the answer to the desecration of women that sexual abuse and violence constitute cannot be the perhaps less obvious but more insidious desecration of women that many of the monologues depict

Indeed the Monologues have become a large cultural phenomenon. Thousands of women identify with its message. Tragically, it is insidiously destructive to the dignity of women. Notre Dame should challenge the message of the Monologues and promote true dignity. ND cannot do so by avoiding the play. One cannot stop to phenomenon of the Monologues by simply banning it from campus. It is out there and ND should engage it and shed light on it. Father Jenkins is right on target in saying, "Our goal is not to limit discussion or inquiry, but to enrich it; it is not to insulate that faith tradition from criticism, but to foster constructive engagement with critics."

I would love to see the University sponsor a Theology of the Body conference near V-Day. This conference could be used to raise funds for local women's shelters and could offer a beautiful alternative to the demeaning message of the Monologues.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

re: Tom's post on herchurch...My email submission to their "Logo Contest"

The church and its website were actually brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago via a poster on, my favorite site for catching up on any unsubstantiated rumors about the U. of Notre Dame and, of course, the football program. The information and point of view on are, to say the least, interesting. They are, to say the most, a bastardization of Christianity that makes the Gnostic gospels look reasonable and accurate by comparison.

One of the pages on the site is one woman's experience at one of herchurch's “Retreat With She Who Is” retreats. First, Pastor Stacy Boorn, leader of herchurch, "invited us to form our own images in clay of Asherah, the mother goddess of the Canaanites". (Apparently, any god will do, as long as it's female) . "The next project....was to make a mandala, a circular, meditative image of the self." Naturally. One of the threads that seems to run throughout the mission and whole point of view of this "church" is worshipping the "feminine" within themselves. This "worshipping the god within" (in this case, the feminine) is hardly a new idea. As G. K. Chesterton, writing almost a century ago, pointed out in Orthodoxy:

Of all the horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within...That Jones shall worship the god within turns out ultimately to mean that Jones worships Jones...

Another page contains a condemnation of South Dakota's abortion ban, citing and siding with National Organization for Women (a virulently pro-abortion group) president Kim Gandy. Hmmm. On page after page of their site, they claim to be liberating the oppressed and marginalized (women, homosexuals, etc.), but have no such liberation tendencies toward the millions of unborn children massacred in their mother's wombs. Nice touch.

Finally, on their "News To You..." page, they announced in big bold type their Logo Contest, in which one could design and submit a logo for their church (because, really, what is a church without a logo?). They offered an email address to send any submissions. Being the always-willing-to-help kind of fellow I am, I sent them the following submission:


Having taken a look at your website on a couple of occasions, I noticed your "Logo Contest". I'm not much of an artist, but I can offer some suggestions for the slogan(maybe someone can provide the accompanying artwork for the logo) to go on a logo for your church:

herchurch: We stand up for the marginalized and oppressed....except the unborn. Screw them.

God/dess, She Who Is, Christ/Sophia....sure, it's all nonsense, but who cares? Whatever makes us feel good is our 'truth'...

herchurch: Leave everything you know (like rational thought or actual history) behind...

herchurch: Worshipping Ourselves

Your announcement for the Logo Contest says "Design us a LOGO and Win!" I don't imagine you'll recieve any more accurate descriptions of your "church" and its "mission" than these.....what prize (to be shared with the accompanying artist, of course...) will I win?



Maybe I'll win a Goddess Rosary or something.....

My Favorite Subject is Back

Father Jenkins has issued a concluding statement concerning the discussion of academic freedom at Notre Dame. I have yet to read it, but you can expect my commentary in the near future. Meanwhile, let me recommend The Truth Will Set You Free, a blog dedicated to the subject.

Rebuilding New Orleans

My friend, Diane, is imbeded with a religious group who are helping to rebuild New Orleans. Her living conditions are simple:

We're all set up at Celebration Church, which will be our headquarters for the next few days. The church itself had six feet of water in it and is certainly rustic housing - no sheetrock, lights in some rooms and the guys section is separated by tarps - but it could be much, much worse.

You can read all about it on her blog.

Goddess Worship at Her Church

It seems some Christians really do worship the Virgin Mary as God. They enjoy praying the "goddess rosary." The members of Ebenezer Lutheran Church in San Francisco (go figure) meet at 8:00pm every Wednesday to pray to their goddess. Their prayer reads, "Hail goddess, full of grace…" Well, you get the idea.

There is radical feminism, and then there is this. I don't know where to begin, but the word "heresy" is at the front of my mind. A perusal of their website reveals their feminist agenda. This is just another sad example of Dan Brown style, feel-good spirituality which should not be confused with authentic Christianity.

Please do not take this post as a dig against the Lutheran church. I have several Lutheran friends all of whom, I'm sure, would be quick to disavow the practices of “her church.”

God or the Girl

So reads the title of a new series which chronicles the lives of four men discerning a call to the Catholic priesthood. All of the candidates have significant others in their lives. A Fox News report claims the title is most provocative element of the series, but the title reflects a misunderstanding of vocation. Catholics are called to discern the way God calls them to service. It is not meant be a choice between God or a girl. We are all called to choose God and we are all called to love our neighbor. The only question is how?

The series has the potential to demonstrate the beauty of the ministerial priesthood. It also gives the audience the opportunity to see four deeply spiritual Catholic men in action. My concern is that it, like most Hollywood attempts at documenting the Catholic Church, will end up fundamentally misunderstanding the Catholic belief in celibacy. Pitting God against "the girl" already reflects this phenomenon. Still I plan to watch the series before I rush to judgment. It premiers on Easter Sunday on A&E. I'd recommend taping it to avoid spoiling your Easter if the show turns out to be a flop.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I have to confess a guilty pleasure. I enjoy playing first person shooter video games with my friends. I should probably avoid the digital violence, but then it wouldn't be a guilty pleasure. A catholic mom wrote an article about this subject. Surprisingly, she had nothing bad to say about guys getting together to play war games. She writes:

At this moment, I realize anew how thoroughly the male sex must be hard-wired for war. It’s a good thing they have computer games and sports for an outlet or the bloodletting would be nonstop.

She even approves:

I have often criticized computers because sometimes people spend more time interacting with a monitor than with their own families. But as I see buddies, sons and dads all playing together I may have to revise my former criticism and welcome this new method of male bonding. It’s just another way for a father and son to shoot hoops or play catch, only maybe more fattening.

I certainly don't think video games should replace outdoor activities. If anything, our children need to be outside more. But, as the video game generation grows up and has kids of their own, we're seeing cops and robbers move from the back yard into the living room. Time Splitters, Halo and Doom are a few of my favorites.

I certainly agree with her observations of a LAN party. During my last deployment with my squadron, we set up 16 person HALO games. Yes, grown up, college educated, combat aviators enjoy blowing off steam with a good "shoot 'em up" video game.