Archive for November, 2014


The alleged Ms Stoker Bruenig

I don’t know when I began to be suspicious.

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, the 23 year old 90 pound whirlwind with the mischievous grin, is suddenly ubiquitous. And I mean she is everywhere: scholarly journals, major magazines, obscure quarterlies, Facebook, Twitter. And when I say she is ‘on’ Facebook I mean that any time I write anything on her timeline, day or night, she instantly ‘likes’ it and usually comments.

I began trying to explain her, even as she dropped details about herself: five minute wedding during a daily Mass (breaking many nerdy hearts), Texan, Klan ancestry, epileptic, only received into the Catholic Church last spring. Oh, and studying for a doctorate. I told myself that she must sleep in only occasional five minute increments. That she must have a lightning fast mind and the metabolism of a tornado.

It was becoming increasingly difficult to believe that any human could do all this when Ms Stoker Bruenig overstepped: she asked readers to send her their street address so she could send them Christmas cards. And if this was not already too much, she then warned that she saw Christmas cards as an excuse to write letters.


No. Way.

‘Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig’ may or may not be the name of the cute fourteen year old with the impish grin who poses for the pictures. But whether she is or not there is no way in the universe that she can possibly do all that she does in any 24 hour period. And if I had typed that paragraph on my Facebook page ‘Ms Stoker Bruenig’ would have ‘liked’ it by the time you read this sentence.

I have a theory. Either Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig is real and also superhuman or  she  is real and has an ever-growing  team of workers assigned to various tasks. Or maybe this is an elaborate hoax to see how gullible internet users are (‘can you believe they fell for handwritten Christmas letters? Idiots!’) Or perhaps ‘she’ is in fact some sort of highly sophisticated robot.

I know ‘Elizabeth’ will protest that she is indeed human. So I ask her: prove it. Let a team of people film you for 24 hours, never leaving your side.

Nothing else will convince me of your humanity, Miz Liz.

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Halloween was cold and rainy, like most of late October. The winds blew hard and the morning suddenly looked and felt like November, the coldest day so far, the leaves stripped early from most of the trees. A leaden sky bore down on the world all day. I love all weather, except the most extreme temperatures, but I must admit that November is my least favorite month. In Michigan, where I grew up, the sun was a rarity, the sky grey and brooding.

But I must say that the discovery, in the last few years, of Sierra Nevada’s seasonal Celebration Ale has given me something to look forward to with the arrival of the eleventh month. It is an IPA made with freshly harvested, not dried hops, and it is delicious. I just drank my first six pack. Check it out if you are unfamiliar with it:   Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2011 After the Synod

Let me get this straight. You can be a weapons manufacturer and no one is going to ask you to refrain from receiving communion in a Catholic parish. You can found a corporation of mercenaries and you will be invited to speak at the Acton Institute. And you can receive communion. You can be a multimillionaire politician and take up with an aging Catholic choir girl. get your two previous unions, which you destroyed by your infidelity, annulled and marry your new honey in the Church, no problem. Bishops will attend your reception. If you are a politician who wars against labor and the poor by his votes you can receive. Or one who zealously promotes abortion, a tragic and violent solution to a crisis. Or you can be a businessman who pays his workers poverty wages while living in luxury. And of course if you are a couple who are not obeying church teaching regarding birth control you are not going to be interrogated in the communion line. If you are a former head of the CIA under GW Bush, who has not only overseen a policy of torturing captives but has defended said policy in the Wall Street Journal you not only can receive communion but you will be asked to give the commencement address at a prominent Catholic university, one which touts its Catholicity. And they will give you an honorary doctorate.

So what again is the problem with not asking questions of same sex companions and those in complicated families, of assuming good will of everyone in charity?

Me, I don’t think anyone over the age of seven should ever receive communion. The rest of us are too messy. The Romans communicate everyone who meets the canonical standard but not the most worthy of all, babies and small children.

Rumors of Schism?

It is getting weird, folks, with bishops and cardinals openly criticizing Francis and well-respected commentators like Ross Douthat suggesting that the time is nigh for conservative Catholics to take on the pope, if not  to bolt altogether. They frequently use St Paul’s rebuke of St Peter as a precedent, though that is a strange choice: Peter was rebuked for not being openly supportive of extending a welcome to those who did not observe Jewish law, while Francis is criticized for extending a welcome to those who are in canonically problematic situations. On the plus side, it is nice to see conservative Catholics getting beyond the superpapalism that long marked that corner of the Church, a tendency only too familiar to me.

But to traditionalists who value theological and liturgical constructs that, however beautiful, are mostly human, this pope has opened the door to the opposite, and very protestant error. This is going to be interesting, and could mark the birth pangs of the era of Vatican II, which has only begun.

Apophatic Bumper Stickers, Inc.

I am going produce a line of apophatic bumper stickers. I do not fool myself into thinking that this is going to make a lot of money, but here are a few:






And this one, from Firesign Theatre:


Painting by Guy Stevens

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