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Archive for March, 2013

(Icon by Mother Anastasia)

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There is, on Facebook, a page called “Things Jesus Never Said” which is pretty funny. These fake quotes, like “Once saved, always saved. Unless you turn out badly and backslide; then we totally know you were never saved”, are mostly directed toward Protestants of the fundamentalist persuasion, but I wish someone would do the same with the sort of conservative Catholics that can safely be called rubrical fundamentalists.

I say this because of the uproar, in certain circles, that Pope Francis has caused, most recently by (gasp!) washing the feet of young women on Holy Thursday, one of them a Muslim. This, they proclaim, violates all sorts of liturgical rubrics, sets a bad example, and liturgical mayhem is in the forecast.

Please.

Things Jesus did not say: “Go forth unto every nation and teach them to observe liturgical rubrics to the letter.” If you cannot distinguish between this profoundly beautiful act and clown Masses I’m afraid I don’t know what to say.

And note that I love beautiful liturgy and have little tolerance for banality in worship. I will drive a good long way to avoid bad liturgy, and worship in the Byzantine tradition, where deviation is unknown. The worse thing you will find in our churches is a priest rushing through it.

But it seems to me – and I pray I am not disillusioned- that Pope Francis is demonstrating by example the primacy of Christ, the primacy of evangelical beauty. Washing the feet of young prisoners, and young women at that, is, like so many things he has done or not done in his young papacy, recalling us to the simplicity of the Gospel, the Way of Jesus.

To criticize him for not observing the rubrics recalls nothing if not the Pharisees, damning Christ for breaking the rules.

I am thinking that this pope is going to be very good for certain types of conservative Catholics, though it is going to be painful for them.

Viva Papa Francesco!

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNieFL7wTlc

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(Icon by Fadi Mikhail)

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Nixon Won

In USA Today, of all places, a columnist cites all the ways that Nixon’s imperial presidency, apparently derailed by is scandal-plagued resignation, in fact has triumphed:

Warrantless surveillance

Nixon’s use of warrantless surveillance led to the creation of a special court called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). But the reform turned out to be more form than substance. The secret court turned “probable cause” into a meaningless standard, virtually guaranteeing any surveillance the government wanted. After hundreds of thousands of applications over decades, only a couple have ever been denied.

Last month, the Supreme Court crushed any remaining illusions regarding FISA when it sided with the Obama administration in ruling that potential targets of such spying had to have proof they were spied upon before filing lawsuits, even if the government has declared such evidence to be secret. That’s only the latest among dozens of lawsuits the administration has blocked while surveillance expands exponentially.

Unilateral military action

Nixon’s impeachment included the charge that he evaded Congress’ sole authority to declare war by invading Cambodia. In the Libyan “mission,” Obama announced that only he had the inherent authority to decide what is a “war” and that so long as he called it something different, no congressional approval or even consultation was necessary. He proceeded to bomb a nation’s capital, destroy military units and spend more than a billion dollars in support of one side in a civil war.

Kill lists

Obama_gives_'peace'_signNixon ordered a burglary to find evidence to use against Daniel Ellsberg, who gave the famed Pentagon Papers to the press, and later tried to imprison him. Ellsberg was later told of a secret plot by the White House “plumbers” to “incapacitate” him in a physical attack. It was a shocking revelation. That’s nothing compared with Obama’s assertion of the right to kill any U.S. citizen without a charge, let alone conviction, based on his sole authority. A recently leaked memo argues that the president has a right to kill a citizen even when he lacks “clear evidence (of) a specific attack” being planned.

Attacking whistle-blowers

Nixon was known for his attacks on whistle-blowers. He used the Espionage Act of 1917 to bring a rare criminal case against Ellsberg. Nixon was vilified for the abuse of the law. Obama has brought twice as many such prosecutions as all prior presidents combined. While refusing to prosecute anyone for actual torture, the Obama administration has prosecuted former CIA employee John Kiriakou for disclosing the torture program.

Other Nixonesque areas include Obama’s overuse of classification laws and withholding material from Congress. There are even missing tapes. In the torture scandal, CIA officials admitted to destroying tapes that they feared could be used against them in criminal cases. Of course, Nixon had missing tapes, but Rose Mary Woods claimed to have erased them by mistake, as opposed to current officials who openly admit to intentional destruction.

You can read the whole thing here.

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Meditating on Christ’s passion and the ways people contribute to his suffering, Lebanese youths lamented the ongoing emigration from and violence in the Middle East, divisions among Christians, the abuse of women and children, and the promotion of abortion.

But despite the hardships, horrors and despair, Christians are called to walk with Christ because “suffering, embraced in faith, is transformed into the path to salvation,” the youths said in meditations for the March 29 Way of the Cross service at Rome’s Colosseum.

Christians can find hope in bearing their burdens because Christ is with them. However, acceptance does not mean putting an end to one’s dreams, to speaking out and fighting for freedom and the truth, the reflections said.

“God does not want suffering and does not accept evil,” the text said. In fact, people can carry the cross with joy and hope because Christians know Christ “triumphed over death for us.”

A group of Lebanese young people wrote the meditations at the request of retired Pope Benedict XVI; the Vatican released the published text with commentary and prayers on the 14 Stations of the Cross March 25.

Each year, the pope chooses a different person or group of people to write the series of prayers and reflections that are read aloud during the solemn, torch-lit ceremony.

The retired pope asked Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai to choose the youths and guide their preparation of the texts. The retired pope’s request was meant to recall his 2012 visit to Lebanon and invite the whole church to pray for the Middle East — its tensions and its beleaguered Christian community.

The task of composing the 14 meditations was divided equally among committees from the six rites of the Catholic Church represented in Lebanon: Latin, Maronite, Melkite, Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean. In addition, six Catholic youth groups, a special needs group and a nongovernmental organization were randomly chosen and assigned a station to focus on.

Participants said they tried to show the biggest challenges facing young people in the Middle East and elsewhere while also showing the Christian vision of hope and resurrection.

The text can be read here.

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“Too often we have seen Wall Street hollow out companies by draining their cash and assets and hollow out communities by shedding jobs and shuttering plants,” said United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard in 2009. “We need a new business model that invests in workers and invests in communities.”

Gerard was announcing a formal partnership between his 1.2-million-member union and Mondragon, a cluster of cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain. Mondragon employs 83,000 workers in 256 companies. About half of those companies are cooperatives, and about a third of Mondragon’s employees are co-op members with an ownership stake in their workplace. Mondragon companies do everything from manufacturing industrial machine parts to making pressure cookers and home appliances to running a bank and a chain of supermarkets. With billions of euros in annual sales, Mondragon is the largest industrial conglomerate in the Basque region and the fifth-largest in Spain.

The cooperatives use workers’ cash investments as part of the capital needed to finance new projects, and worker-owner co-op members get to vote on strategy, management, and business planning. The highest-paid managers’ salaries are capped at six to eight times what the lowest-paid workers make—as opposed to the United States, where CEOs now make 380 times more than the average worker.

As manufacturing in the United States continues in free fall, the USW is working to bring the Mondragon cooperative model to the Rust Belt. It aims to use employee-run businesses to create new, middle-class jobs to replace union work that has gone overseas.

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