T h e A p o l o g i s t ’ s E y e
Cardinal Arinze Discovered to Be Catholic; U.S. Catholic Academics Horrified
Volume 14, Number 7
When Francis Cardinal Arinze was invited last June to speak at allegedly Catholic Georgetown University, he inexplicably said things that a Catholic would think and believe. Inexplicably, Catholic academics were reportedly amazed and offended.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (May 22, 2003):
"A letter protesting the speech by Cardinal Francis Arinze was signed by about 70 faculty members at the Jesuit university and delivered Wednesday to Jane McAuliffe, dean of the university’s school of arts and sciences.
"McAuliffe, a specialist in Islamic studies, invited Arinze—president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue—to speak on Christian-Muslim relations at the school’s graduation ceremonies last Saturday.
"Instead, the Nigerian prelate told the graduates that happiness is found not in the pursuit of material wealth or pleasures of the flesh but by fervently adhering to religious beliefs.
Arinze then spoke of the importance of family to the Roman Catholic Church.
"‘In many parts of the world, the family is under siege,’ Arinze said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by the university. ‘It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce.’"
Our favorite quote is from the shocked and outraged faculty member Ed Ingebretson: "These things are exactly what he’s paid to say," Ingebretson said. "(But) it’s a graduation; why he decided to do the pro-family thing no one seems to know."
That darn "pro-family thing": Why would any Catholic want to "do" that?
When Evangelicals Mistake Scripture for a Manual on Foreign Policy
Jan Willem van de Hoeven, an Evangelical supporter of Israel, has some pretty definite notions about just what the future holds, according to an article in the Washington Times (www.washingtontimes.com/national/20030518-114058-5626r.htm):
"We may have disagreements about who [the Messiah] is, but he is not coming back to a mosque but to a third temple."
What’s especially weird about this is that Evangelicals are usually the ones berating Catholics for "legalism" and reliance on "empty forms and rituals" that cannot save, rather than on Christ. Yet some Evangelicals are now pushing for the rebuilding of the Temple and the reinstitution of Temple sacrifices. The Catholic position is that the whole point of the epistle to the Hebrews was to show that all things foreshadowed of the true sacrifice of Christ and that, once he has come, the Temple is no longer necessary. We’re not nearly as confident as Mr. van de Hoeven that Scripture has the future rebuilding of a Third Temple of Solomon mapped out according to his predictions. We’ll take a "wait and see" attitude to the specific details of just where Christ will be coming back.
Scratch an Atheist, Find a Fundamentalist
British expatriate journalist Christopher Hitchens, whom nobody would ever call unintelligent or uneducated, says the dumbest things when it comes to religion—particularly the Catholic Church. In a May 18 review of Adam Nicolson’s God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible in the New York Times, he repeats a falsehood worthy of Jack Chick, Halley’s Bible Handbook, or a version of Christian history you might find in a Jimmy Swaggart newsletter:
For many centuries, it was exceedingly dangerous to try to translate the Good Book into a language that the people could understand. Like the secret work of Emmanuel Goldstein in "Nineteen Eighty-Four," the Bible was the possession of an inner-party elite, and its arcana were part of the stage management of priestcraft.
Honestly. A high school student with a 28K modem and a rudimentary knowledge of how to use the Google search engine could demonstrate the falsity of this grey-bearded myth. Vernacular translations of Scripture in most of the languages of Europe preceded, and were approved by, the Catholic Church for centuries before the King James Version.
What the Church fretted about was not vernacular translations but unauthorized translations, and it’s a concern Protestants should be able to relate to. The English government suppressed bad translations of the Bible and published the "Authorized Version." Modern mainstream Protestants protest scriptural quackery like the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation, which manipulates the text to deny the deity of Christ. The reason there were, in fact, numerous vernacular translations of Scripture throughout Europe long before the Reformation was because there was no particular urge to keep people away from the Bible.
What concerned the Church was that the invention of the printing press made possible what the Internet has exponentially increased: the AIWACS (Any Idiot with a Composing Stick) Syndrome, which allows any quack the facility to do what he wills with the text of Scripture. To be sure, Catholics overreacted and sinned (egregiously, in the case of Wycliffe and others). But it’s just not the case that the Church sought to keep Scripture from being read or heard. That is a Protestant myth.
We didn’t get a medieval culture with a literary tradition soaked in scriptural thought and imagery by keeping the Bible away from everybody. We got it because it was practically the only book everybody knew. It’s amazing that this is not yet obvious, even to somebody as bright as Hitchens.
Sheesh! "Abuse of Children!" Yadda Yadda! Can’t People Find Something Else to Talk About?
No, that’s not some bishop trying to deflect your attention from his responsibility for re-assigning abusive priests and failing to contact the cops. That, in paraphrased form, is the substance of the National Catholic Reporter fretting in its May 23, 2003 editorial that a far more popular and culturally approved form of child abuse—abortion—is getting too much attention from all you pro-lifers with your one-issue minds:
"On the other hand, it is equally futile for bishops to make abortion, important as it is, the one-issue litmus test of a legislator’s worth. Politics benefits enormously when it is informed by moral thought and reasoning and even by the passion of those who want to see justice done and have little patience for the protocols of the halls of power.
"But the moralist who trades in absolutes would not last long in those halls. Compromise lies at the heart of the political craft. Few politicians will take to the public pulpit to champion an unpopular cause that their counterparts—leaders in the moral realm—have sold with only limited success to their flocks."
Okay, so a million-and-a-half kids get killed each year. You have to admit though, that those fanatically pro-abort "personally opposed" politicos certainly do make the trains run on time. So try not to be so absolutist.
Self-Mortification and Religion
In late May the San Francisco Chronicle ran a piece on some of the stranger forms of self-mortification found in Islam, Christianity, and other traditions (including a few Filipinos crucifying themselves on Good Friday). The story naturally makes all forms of mortification sound like life-denying psychosis. Non-Catholics are fond of pointing to such things as proof that there’s something pretty whacked at the heart of the Catholic faith.
Even some Catholics have no patience for it. Rev. Gerald Coleman, president of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Seminary in Menlo Park, is quoted as saying, "We have moved away from physical penance to a more enlightened sense of spiritual penance. What makes us holy is not wearing down our bodies."
Coleman acknowledged disapprovingly that some priests, monks, and "traditionalist" lay people still hurt themselves in the name of God. "Any group that does something like that has not moved into a balanced sense of spirituality," he said. "They think there is something evil about the body. That is a denial of the Incarnation."
There’s something peculiar about a Christian simultaneously believing that his Lord fasted for forty days in the wilderness and believing that self-mortification is a weird and evil thing.
And the secular culture that has given the world the Stairmaster is not really in much of a position to condemn asceticism. Our culture seems to reserve its self-mortifying will power to do homage at the altar of having the perfect body rather than at the altar of God. To condemn all the Catholic Church’s ascetic practices because a handful of Filipinos insist on nailing themselves to crosses on Good Friday is like closing every fitness club in the world because a few kooks pop steroids and do nothing but pump iron and obsess over their biceps.
Mad Rad Trads
For years, Pope John Paul II has been called evil by the "radical Traditionalist" (a.k.a. "rad trad") folks at NovusOrdoWatch.org because of—well, the Novus Ordo Mass, among other things. So when the Pope announced that a Latin indult Mass would be celebrated at St. Mary Major, the folks at Novus Ordo Watch were full of Christian charity and gratitude, right?
Well, no. Here’s their "analysis":
"Vatican Announces Traditional Mass in St. Mary Major for May 24. And what will the Mass be offered for? True peace? Conversion of sinners? End to abortion? Conversion of Russia? No! Instead, in honor of John Paul II! By the way, why won’t the Pope himself come? (It seems he won’t.) We thought he was so traditional-Mass-friendly!"
Anger is medicine, not food. The Novus Ordo Watch guys have become addicted to the drug of anger and now prefer it to the food of charity. They seem to want to go on loathing the Pope, no matter what—even if he gives them what they want.
PBS television’s Frontline somehow managed to run a piece on Catholic historian Eamon Duffy on its web site that attributed to him the views of a rather kooky German atheist. We’re not talking a typo or a single misquote. We’re talking lengthy misattribution:
Professor Duffy, who is president of the Catholic Theological Association, was quoted on the web site as saying that he did not believe in the Resurrection.
In the transcript of the interview given to Professor Duffy, the respected and orthodox historian appeared to boast of being an unbeliever. He was quoted as saying that dying without belief in resurrection "makes life even better, makes this world a better place."
He describes his "long journey" from devout believer to skeptic.
Turns out Duffy never said any of this. Some loopy German theologian named Gerd Lüdemann did. Duffy, who is in fact a believing Catholic, is contemplating suit against the people who published these misattributed words.
It reminds us of the Saturday Night Live bit years ago where the "Weekend Update" anchorman would offer corrections for errors in the previous week’s reporting. It would go something like, "Our previous report stating that elementary school teachers are Nazi white supremacists who are being indicted for conspiracy to commit cannibalism on kindergartners was incorrect. What we actually meant to say was that was that elementary school teachers are being commended for their work in the recent bake sale fundraiser. We regret the error."
Frontline may indeed regret the error, but it is small comfort to Professor Duffy.
It’s Like the Ice Cream Man Saying He Doesn’t Believe in Sweets
In June hundreds of parishioners in the Danish village of Taarbaek came to the defense of their pastor after he was suspended and demanded his reinstatement. His offense? Not believing in God.
ABC News reported that the parishioners held a protest at which they condemned the state Lutheran Protestant Church for its decision to suspend fifty-five-year-old Thorkild Grosboell after he spoke of his lack of beliefs in a newspaper interview.
"If there is no place for our pastor in this church, then there is no place for many of us, either," said the head of the parish council, Lars Heilesen.
Bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel suspended Pastor Grosboell, calling his comments "totally unacceptable." "With his comments, the pastor has created confusion and uncertainty about what the church stands for," the bishop said. He ordered Grosboell to make a statement "clarifying that he did not want to sow doubt about the Church’s confession but rather trigger a debate."
Denmark’s Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs, Tove Fergo, took Bishop Rebel’s side in the matter, saying a pastor cannot work in the state church if he does not believe in God. And according to a study published in the religious daily Kristelig Dagbladet, ninety percent of pastors agree.
A committee fighting corruption and abuse of power in Denmark has denounced what it described as censorship against the pastor, saying his freedom of expression had been violated.
It filed a police complaint against the church, accusing it of violating the Danish constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Some eighty-eight percent of Danes are members of the state church.
It’s somehow comforting—under the "misery loves company" heading—to know that the Catholic Church isn’t the only one with dissenters at the pulpit. But, at least in this case, church authorities were actually doing something about it. The pastor and the bishop were to meet to discuss the issue, but as of press time no new information was forthcoming.