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Archive for June, 2012

Icon by Mother Anastasia

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From the New York Times:

Rev. Robert A. Sirico, a Catholic priest and the author of “Defending the Free Market,” says that the importance of unions in Catholic teaching is historically contingent. It matters, Father Sirico said, that Pope Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum” was written in 1891, not today.

“In the industrial revolution, the church was concerned about communism, and not just capitalism but savage capitalism,” Father Sirico said. “People were being brutalized. That’s just not the case in Pittsburgh today.”

Besides the rather obvious fact that capitalism still brutalizes, Fr Sirico is so wrong on so many points that it is hard to know where to begin.

The Church has always supported labor unions, not because of some localized problem, not because of some temporally contingent circumstance, but because of natural law, and because of the primal social virtue of solidarity.

In 1891, Pope Leo XIII wrote that the proliferation of unions was “greatly to be desired.” In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that unions “have always been encouraged and supported by the church.” The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was even more clear in a 1986 pastoral letter: “No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself.”

I am so weary of this clerical mountebank’s kissing the ass of the corporatocracy. A man of fluid identity- Pentecostal revivalist, homosexual activist, gay clergyman, Catholic priest- somewhere along the line, after reading Ayn Rand, he got the bright idea that it would be a good gig to serve the interests of corporate wealth. So, funded by Calvinist businessmen in Grand Rapids, he founded the Acton Institute and dedicated his life to dissembling and distorting Catholic social teaching in an effort to reconcile it with free market ideology. The project would be laughable were it not for the fact that the generosity of his corporate backers allows him to buy influence, and, among other things, to offer free junkets to his conferences to Catholic seminarians. That’s right, fully paid weekends in luxury hotels. The only cost? Allow yourself to be seduced by the false gospel of libertarian economics. I don’t know how many current priests have gotten their ideas about economics at the feet of the Acton Institute, but the Church in the US has taken a palpable rightward turn in recent years.

Fr Sirico’s influence has been huge in this country and has directly undermined the Church’s mission.

And of course what really grates is that if Vatican norms had been observed he never would have been ordained.

Lord have mercy.

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From the iconostasis of Mr Hart’s chapel

English Orthodox iconographer Aiden Hart writes well of his craft. He includes photos of the very beautiful chapel he has created at the Hermitage of Saint Anthony and Saint Cuthbert, Shropshire, England:

That is to say, spiritual things need explaining or manifesting in a spiritual way. So what makes icons and other good liturgical arts so powerful is not just their sacred subject matter, but the way this subject matter is expressed. An icon crudely or sentimentally painted still acts as an icon inasmuch as it connects us with its prototype through the saint’s name that it bears. But it fails inasmuch as its “style” or language does not satisfactorily evoke the transfigured world. Similarly, a church building can protect the congregation from the elements but by poor design fail to give them the sense of the incarnate God dwelling in their amidst.
To see with the eye of the heart we need first to be purified, to repent, to turn towards God. Liturgical art can assist this turning through its “joyful sorrow”.

More here, from The Orthodox Arts Journal.

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The city of Mondragon, Spain

“Modern societies have mostly chosen a capitalist organization of production. In capitalism, private owners establish enterprises and select their directors who decide what, how and where to produce and what to do with the net revenues from selling the output. This small handful of people makes all those economic decisions for the majority of people – who do most of the actual productive work. The majority must accept and live with the results of all the directorial decisions made by the major shareholders and the boards of directors they select. This latter also select their own replacements.

Capitalism thus entails and reproduces a highly undemocratic organization of production inside enterprises. True believers insist that no alternatives to such capitalist organizations of production exist or could work nearly so well, in terms of outputs, efficiency, and labor processes. The falsity of that claim is easily shown. Indeed, I was shown it a few weeks ago and would like to sketch it for you here.

In May 2012, I had occasion to visit the city of Arrasate-Mondragon, in the Basque region of Spain. It is the headquarters of the Mondragon Corporation (MC), a stunningly successful alternative to the capitalist organization of production.

MC is composed of many co-operative enterprises grouped into four areas: industry, finance, retail and knowledge. In each enterprise, the co-op members (averaging 80-85% of all workers per enterprise) collectively own and direct the enterprise. Through an annual general assembly the workers choose and employ a managing director and retain the power to make all the basic decisions of the enterprise (what, how and where to produce and what to do with the profits).”

Read more from The Guardian : http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/24/alternative-capitalism-mondragon

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This is really big news; I do not remember a former president ever making such a criticism of a sitting president, let alone one of his own party:

“The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.”

Read the rest, from President Carter’s NY Times editorial “A Cruel and Unusual Record”.

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Both presidential candidates are in dire need of new campaign slogans.

Mitt Romney’s is “Believe in America”. Well, I believe in God, not America, but I can imagine someone believing in America without necessarily believing in Mitt Romney.

And Obama’s? “Forward”? Forward into what, exactly? And isn’t it true that when you get stuck sometimes you have to back up?

If you ask me both slogans fall flat.

And so I am, in an attempt to be helpful, offering free advice to both candidates. I am really the perfect person to offer advice. After all, I am politically homeless, and cannot in conscience vote for either candidate. Not having a dog in this fight, I therefore am capable of being perfectly objective.

I will begin with the President.

 

 

 

 

OBAMA: HEY, IT’S HARDER THAN IT LOOKED.

OBAMA: HIPPER THAN MITT.

OBAMA: DO YOU REALLY THINK FOUR YEARS OF McCAIN WOULD HAVE BEEN ANY BETTER?

OBAMA: HEY, HE’S NOT ROMNEY

OBAMA: I’LL TRY HARDER. REALLY.

OBAMA: I’M JUST GETTING STARTED!

OBAMA: HE KILLED OSAMA!

OBAMA: NOT AS RICH AS ROMNEY.

OBAMA:  JUST BECAUSE.

OBAMA: CONSIDER THE ALTERNATIVE

And now for Mr Romney.

ROMNEY: THE BEST WE COULD DO.

ROMNEY: NOT OBAMA.

ROMNEY: REAL RICH. REAL WHITE. REAL ROMNEY.

ROMNEY: NOT IN IT FOR THE MONEY.

ROMNEY: JUST A REGULAR GUY. NO, REALLY. 

ROMNEY: YOU HAVE TO ADMIT, HE LOOKS LIKE A PRESIDENT.

ROMNEY: BECAUSE WEALTH AND POWER GO TOGETHER.

ROMNEY: SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO, VOTE FOR OBAMA?

ROMNEY: JUST ACCEPT REALITY.

ROMNEY: CONSIDER THE ALTERNATIVE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the song that opened the concert the other night. I had never heard it before, and was quite moved. These are the same guitarists that accompanied her when I saw her, but in that concert the skinny kid on her left played steel guitar in this tune, which was quite effective….

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Local and Perfect

One of the great things about living in this part of Ohio is the abundance of locally produced food. I live in an area that is not only largely agricultural but also the home of the largest Amish population in the US. Much of what is produced is made by a family and marketed either at their farm or at a roadside market. This includes not only food, but baskets, soap, furniture, and just about anything else that can be made by a small enterprise.

Some of these family businesses expand and begin hiring help and sell their goods at local stores. One of these is Mrs Miller’s, in the tiny town of Fredericksburg, near where I lived when I first moved to Ohio 18 years ago. That business began by making egg noodles, then went on to other pasta and jams and jellies.

We are of course used to fictive advertising. We don’t believe cookies are made by elves, or that Uncle Ben is a real person. Mrs Miller, though, is a real person, an Amish woman who runs her small business from Fredericksburg. And her hot pepper jelly is the best; the perfect blend of heat and sweet. Though it is called a jelly, in fact it is loaded with pieces of red and green hot pepper. It goes best with the freshly ground peanut butter we buy at a local natural food store, and no, it is not more expensive than Jif.

All in all, just one more reason to be thankful for where I live. I mean where else in the country can you have proximity to Eastern Christian churches (to the north) and Amish goods (to the south)?

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An Apt Quote

Hillaire Belloc said that the Catholic Church is “an institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight.”

If he could see it now…

Drawing by James Gain, ht to Mark Shea.

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