Welcome to the Reading Room

Here are some news stories and articles which might be of interest to you. I've posted the opening section, and if you want to read more, you can click on "Read the whole article" to go to the original item. You'll find a variety of things here -- current news, political analysis, opinion pieces, articles about religion -- things I've happened to read and want to share with you. It's your Reading Room, so take your time. Browse. You're certain to find something you'll want to read.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Christianity Lite

by Mary Eberstadt

Once in a while comes an historical event so momentous, so packed with unexpected force, that it acts like a large wave under still water, propelling us momentarily up from the surface of our times onto a crest, where the wider movements of history may be glimpsed better than before.

Such an event was Benedict XVI’s landmark announcement in October 2009 offering members of the Anglican Communion a fast track into the Catholic Church. Although commentators quickly dubbed this unexpected overture a “gambit,” what it truly exhibits are the characteristics of a move known in chess as a “brilliancy,” an unforeseen bold stroke that stunningly transforms the game. In the short run, knowledgeable people agree, this brilliancy of Benedict’s may not seem to amount to much. Some 1000 Church of England priests may convert and some 300 parishes turn over to Rome—figures that, while significant when measured against the dwindling numbers of practicing Anglicans there, are nonetheless mere drops in the Vatican’s bucket.

But in the longer run—say, over the coming decades—Rome’s move looks consequential in another way. It is the latest and most dramatic example of how orthodoxy, rather than dissent, seems once again to have taken the driver’s seat of Christianity. Every traditionalist who joins the long and already illustrious history of reconversion to the Catholic Church just tips the religious balance more toward Rome. This further weakens a religious communion battered from within by decades of intra-Anglican culture wars. Meanwhile, the progressives left behind may well find the exodus of their adversaries a Pyrrhic victory. How will they possibly make peace with the real majority of Anglicans today—the churches in Africa, whose leaders have repeatedly denounced the Communion’s abandonment of traditional teachings? Questions like these are why a few commentators now speak seriously about something that only recently seemed unthinkable: whether the end of the Anglican Communion itself might now be in sight.

Even so, it is the still longer run of Christian history whose outlines may now be most interesting and unexpected of all. Looking even further out to the horizon from our present moment—at a vista of centuries, rather than mere decades, ahead of us—we may well begin to wonder something else. That is, whether what we are witnessing now is not only the beginning of the end of the Anglican Communion but indeed the end of something even larger: the phenomenon of Christianity Lite itself.

By this I mean the multifaceted institutional experiment, beginning but not ending with the Anglican Communion, of attempting to preserve Christianity while simultaneously jettisoning certain of its traditional teachings—specifically, those regarding sexual morality. Surveying the record to date of what has happened to the churches dedicated to this long-running modern religious experiment, a large historical question now appears: whether the various exercises in this specific kind of dissent from traditional teaching turn out to contain the seeds of their own destruction. The evidence—preliminary but already abundant—suggests that the answer is yes.

If this is so, then the implications for the future of Christianity itself are likely to be profound. If it is Christianity Lite, rather than Christianity proper, that is fatally flawed and ultimately unable to sustain itself, then a rewriting of much of contemporary thought, religious and secular, appears in order. It means that secularization itself may be fundamentally misunderstood. It means that the most unwanted and unfashionable traditional teaching of Christianity, its sexual moral code, demands of the modern mind a new and respectful look. As a strategic matter, it also means that the current battle within the Catholic Church between traditionalists and dissenters must go to the traditionalists, lest the dissenters or cafeteria Catholics take the same path that the churches of Christianity Lite have followed: down, down, down...  Read the whole article.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Buck Stops Here...

A Political Cartoon by Gary Varvel

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brother viciously beaten in Dong Chiem, a parish under siege

by J.B. An Dang

In a statement to be read in all churches until next Sunday, the archdiocese of Hanoi speaks of hundreds of police agents and soldiers forcibly blocking anyone who tries to reach the Dong Chiem parish church. Those who dare approach are threatened and can be arrested.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Vietnamese authorities appear to have opted for a violent crackdown. In Dong Chiem parish, a man religious was viciously beaten (pictured), many people have been threatened, some arrested, whilst the local church is under siege, no one allowed near it. This comes after Catholics held a peaceful rally to protest the destruction of a cross on Mount Tho in an area owned by the Church for over a hundred years. Meanwhile, expressions of solidarity have poured in from Catholics in other neighbouring provinces of northern Vietnam.

The parish church “has been completely surrounded and isolated” since yesterday. “Anyone who approaches the entrance is stopped by security agents who man checkpoints around the building. Priests from the Hanoi deanery have been stopped before they could cross the Xay River bridge, some 500 metres from the church.”

The archdiocese of Hanoi has used the aforementioned terms to describe the situation. Its strong-worded statement will be read in all of the capital’s churches at the end of every Mass, starting today until next Sunday.

Saint Francis’ prayer will be read. “Where there is hatred, let me sow love,” the text says, “for the parish priest, his vicar and all his faithful,” and “especially for our brothers and sisters” who have been “beaten and jailed. May they firmly keep their faith in this time of difficulty and be able to join the mystery of the Cross of Christ.”

The statement goes further. “We want man’s fundamental human rights be respected,” it said, “so that our country can have peace, justice, democracy and know true civilisation”.

It also refers to hundreds of police agents and soldiers, some in uniform, others in plain clothes, mobilised for the action against the parish. It speaks of parishioners terrorised by loud speakers spewing insults, lies and threats against the parish priest, Fr Nguyen Van Huu, his vicar, Fr Nguyen Van Lien (who have already been interrogated and threatened several times by police) and parishioners. Altogether 16 people are said to have been detained or arrested...  Read the whole article.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What happened in Massachusetts?

by Phil Lawler

The Kennedy dynasty has ended.

It was probably over in August, when Ted Kennedy died, because the long love affair between the Kennedy family and the voters of Massachusetts was personal rather than political. Another member of the Kennedy clan might have claimed that extraordinary legacy, but when the family could not produce a political heir, the Kennedy mystique could not be transferred to another Democratic candidate.

With the victory of Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election on January 19, the end of the Kennedy dynasty was announced clearly to the world. A Senate seat that has been held since 1952 by a member of the Kennedy family (or, for two short stretches, by college roommates who served as designated place-holders for the Kennedys) is now held by a Republican. The political landscape of Massachusetts has been changed forever.

There are rich ironies in the stunning result from Massachusetts. For decades Ted Kennedy had fought for a sweeping national health-care reform. The “Obamacare” program, which was so close to Congressional approval, would surely have been packaged as a posthumous tribute to the late Senator’s efforts. Now that legislation may be doomed by the opposition of the man who will replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate.

To compound the irony, Scott Brown is a US Senator today only because on his deathbed Ted Kennedy asked for, and won, a change in the state laws governing a special election. If the law had not been changed, his permanent successor would have been elected in November 2010. Kennedy’s own hand-picked replacement, Paul Kirk, would have remained in the Senate for nearly another full year, during which time he might well have cast the deciding vote in favor of health-care reform. But now Kirk—whose temporary authority ended with the election—is powerless to advance his old friend's plans.

In a final irony, Scott Brown won the election in part because he convinced the voters of Massachusetts that he—not the liberal Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley—embodied the spirit that John F. Kennedy had brought to Massachusetts politics. In campaign ads, Brown reminded his constituency that Jack Kennedy favored tax cuts and strong national defense. The Republican candidate boldly severed the ties between President Kennedy—who would be judged a conservative by today’s standards—and the liberal Democrats who have long laid claim to the “Camelot” legacy... Read the whole article.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Pope's 'green' message: not standard environmentalism

by Phil Lawler

After Pope Benedict XVI delivered his “State of the World” address to the Vatican diplomatic corps on January 11, your local newspaper probably carried a headline like the one atop the story in the New York Times: “Pope Denounces Failure to Forge New Climate Treaty.” The AP story began:

Pope Benedict XVI denounced the failure of world leaders to agree to a new climate change treaty in Copenhagen last month, saying Monday that world peace depends on safeguarding God’s creation.

BBC carried a very similar headline: “Pope Benedict XVI lambasts Copenhagen failure.” And Time magazine, also running with the AP coverage, followed suit with its headline text: “Pope Denounces Lack of New Climate Treaty.”

You might have concluded, from the press coverage, that the Holy Father’s speech was devoted mostly to the Copenhagen conference. But that conclusion would have been wrong. In his full 3,000-word address, Pope Benedict spent barely 100 words on the climate-change summit. It was a part of his message, but only a small part. However, it was the part that the secular media wanted to hear... Read the whole article.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Archbishop Miot Killed in Massive Earthquake in Haiti; Thousands Feared Dead

by Deacon Keith Fournier

Aid worker: ‘Most horrific thing I’ve ever seen’ Catholics of Haiti now also grieve the loss of a beloved Archbishop. Pope calls for massive show of solidarity.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (Catholic Online) - Pope Benedict XVI called for a show of massive solidarity around the world for the victims of what he referred to as the "devastating earthquake, which resulted in serious loss of human life, a great number of homeless and missing, and enormous material damage."

The Pope called all people to respond in an impassioned plea, "I appeal to the generosity of everyone, so that our brothers and sisters receive our concrete solidarity and the effective support of the international community in this moment of need and suffering."

He assured the faithful that the global network of the Catholic Church's charity organizations have already sprung into action. In fact, they have unleashed a massive display of Charity in action, providing a living witness of the love of Christ to those most in need.

The Pope also called for a massive outpouring of prayer, imploring the faithful: "I invite everyone to join in my prayer to the Lord for the victims of this catastrophe and for those who are mourning their loss. I assure my spiritual closeness to people who have lost their homes and to all those affected in various ways by this calamity, imploring from God consolation and relief of their suffering."

The Catholics in Haiti also grieve the loss of a Shepherd, another victim of the earthquake. Father Pierre Le Beller of the Saint Jacques Missionary Center in western France reports that the lifeless body of Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, was found in the ruins of the offices of the archdiocese office... Read the whole article.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Church Perfect

by Dr. Jeff Mirus

Considering the frequent criticism of ecclesiastical persons on this web site, I think it essential to consider why the Church remains so important, so special and so beautiful despite the sins of her members. This need may be greater for some readers than for others; some of our correspondents have betrayed a deeper disaffection with Church leadership than CatholicCulture.org has ever expressed. But all Catholics, at least, ought to recall that the only legitimate reason for criticizing contemporary bishops, priests, religious communities, Catholic agencies, politicians and theologians is that they fail to uphold the standards of the Church herself.

Please pay close attention to what I’m saying here: Considered in her members, their organizations and their activities, the Church is legitimately subject to criticism only when she differs from what she actually is, considered in her essence. This fundamental fact of Catholic life is unlike any other fact concerning any other organization in history, and it is extraordinarily instructive. It not only indicates the sole legitimate criterion for criticism of ecclesiastical persons and organizations; it also expresses the reality that the Church possesses a perfect identity, an identity which transcends the individual actions and even the general associational impact of her members. Read the whole article.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mgr Graham Leonard, former Bishop of London who converted to Rome, has died

by Damian Thompson

I’ve just heard that Mgr Graham Leonard, the former Bishop of London who became a Catholic and was made a (married) Monsignor by Pope John Paul II, has died.

Mgr Leonard, 87, was a formidable and dignified champion of the Anglo-Catholic cause in the Church of England; when he converted to Catholicism after the vote to ordain women priests, he was ordained priest conditionally, having persuaded the Vatican that he might already possess valid orders by virtue of an Old Catholic apostolic succession.

Mgr Leonard had originally hoped that he could bring with him Anglican priests and faithful who could worship together after their reception; as it turned out, the time was not yet ripe. But it is now. The Ordinariate scheme, currently taking shape, will be a fitting memorial to this inspiring priest.  This is the whole article.  Here is the original.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Media Warns of Grave GOP Danger

by John R. Guardiano

The Christmas Day terrorist attack on Flight 253 was an actual disaster that never occurred thanks to luck (the bomb's detonators were faulty) and to heroism (a Dutch passenger, Jasper Schuringa, literally jumped over rows of passengers to nab the terrorist, subdue him, and save lives).

The averted Christmas Day attack, though, is turning into a political disaster for the Obama administration and the Democratic Left. Political disaster looms because the American people rightly want to know how a terrorist like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, with detonators and explosives in hand, ever managed to get on Flight 253 -- especially after the terrorist's own father had warned the U.S. embassy in Nigeria about the dangers posed by his son.

The American people also want to know what the Obama administration is doing to prevent future Abdulmutallabs from blowing up planes and American cities. Republican elected officials, consequently, have finally found their voice and thus are asking politically inconvenient questions about how the administration has handled -- or mishandled -- the war on terror. Questions like:

• Has the Obama administration's ban on enhanced interrogations, and its pledge to investigate and prosecute past enhanced interrogations, resulted in lax counterterrorism efforts, which might otherwise have prevented Abdulmutallab from boarding the plane?

• Did the Obama administration opt to cede Abdulmutallab to the courts and his ACLU-loving lawyers vice interrogating him about his terrorist connections and knowledge?

• How much actionable intelligence was lost -- and how many terror plots might have been averted -- because the Obama administration opted to treat the Christmas Day terrorist attack as a law enforcement matter rather than an incident of war?

• Does the Obama administration truly recognize that America is at war with al-Qaeda and the terror masters; or does it still view terrorism as an issue best delegated to the courts and the criminal justice system?

Of course, the Obama administration and the Democratic Left don't like these questions, which threaten to expose their soft underbelly and show that the emperor has no clothes. That's why they've enlisted their allies in the big media to fight back... Read the whole article.


About Me

My photo
Fr. Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, the first Anglican Use parish, established on August 15, 1983. Not that there is any confusion, but he is on the left, shown in his younger, less gray-headed days.