Monday, September 22, 2014

Blogging Around: the Super-Duper Long Edition

Saving Dr. Brantly: The Inside Story of a Medical Miracle
GetReligion tells us that another miracle, aside from that reported on Matt Lauer's NBC special about Dr. Brantly's recovery from Ebola, is that faith and the "miracle" aspect were fully discussed and never shied away from. Well done, Matt Lauer!

Why the Seal of the Confessional Can't be Broken

I try not to make a habit of wading into swamps, but there’s something going on in Louisiana that should not be ignored.1 The state Supreme Court ruled that, once a penitent has waived confidentiality, what was discussed in the sacrament of confession can be fair game in court. The diocese of Baton Rouge has recently appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. The case is particularly challenging because the confession in question was made by a girl who was being abused by a parishioner, and it appears from her testimony that the priest did not do anything to help her.

Much of the discussion thus far has been about what Louisiana law requires and whether or not the seal of confession supersedes it. But this misses two important questions — one about what should have happened, and one about why the seal cannot be waived, even by the person who made the confession.
Sam Sawyer at The Jesuit Post has an excellent piece about why the seal of the confessional is so important. I've been surprised how much this topic has arisen lately in my life. Understandably, it first came up when Scott Danielson and I at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast were discussing I Confess. Then my movie viewing group at Caruth Haven has had it pop up a couple of times.

If you haven't considered the topic, Louisiana is making sure that you do. This is important.

Dante's Lessons for Millenials

And then, a year ago, I stumbled into the Divine Comedy by accident. I was going through a deep personal crisis and couldn’t see any way out. One day, browsing in a bookstore, I pulled down a copy of Inferno, the first book of the Commedia trilogy, and began to read the first lines:

Midway along the journey of our life
I woke to find myself in some dark woods,
For I had wandered off from the
straight path.
(trans. Mark Musa)

Well, yes, I thought, I know what that’s like. Like me, Dante (the character in the poem) was having a midlife crisis. I kept reading and didn’t stop until months later, when I slogged with Dante through Hell, climbed with him up the mountain of Purgatory, and blasted through the heavens to see God in Paradise. All made sense after that pilgrimage, and I found my way back to life. I was, in a physical and spiritual sense, healed.
That’s the testimony of a forty-seven-year-old writer, late to wisdom. What if I had encountered Dante as a young man and taken the lessons the pilgrim learned on his journey to heart back then? Would I have had an easier time staying on the straight path? Perhaps. At least I would have been warned how to avoid the false trails.
Rod Dreher's been digging deep into Dante lately and I hear tell he's writing a book. Which I can't wait for, by the way. Having read the Divine Comedy once, I know that's not enough. It didn't hit me the way it did Dreher, but then I've been gobsmacked by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Jane Austen lately. I'm working my way up to diving beneath the layers in Dante. If Dante doesn't sound like your cuppa tea, read Dreher's piece. Heck, read it anyway. He's good.

Comic Book Superheroes and the Moral Struggle

We all need guardian angels. In fact the Catholic Church teaches that we each have one – a supernatural entity assigned at conception, not to dominate us, but to prevent us being dominated; to defend us against our supernatural enemies, giving us the space to live our human lives in a world that is much bigger and scarier than we think (what the Rangers do for the Shire in The Lord of the Rings). Comic book superheroes and supervillains are the angels and demons of this cosmic spiritual warfare reinvented for the secular imagination, and they resonate with us because on some level we know that we need them. At the same time, they give us something to aspire to (the corresponding Christian doctrine istheosis or divinization by grace). These are not all protectors sent to us from outside – like the boy from Krypton, or Thor – more often they are ordinary human beings (Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, Hal Jordan) who by providential accident or brilliant design find themselves possessed of a power beyond the lot of mortals. And “with great power comes great responsibility”, as they quickly learn. These are flawed human beings who have to become heroes, fighting alongside the guardian angels for the right of human beings to live a meaningful life. (“I have come to set them free,” says Loki. “Free from what?” asks Fury. “Freedom,” comes the reply.)
Stratford Caldecott, whose name I have come to know lately via my own Tolkien appreciation, wrote a wonderful piece that any lover of pop culture will enjoy. And those who decry pop culture may find hope in his words. Via Steven D. Greydanus.

Cardinal Dolan and the St. Patrick's Day Parade That Won't Go Away

An excellent piece from The Anchoress which I am sorry to say will probably be wasted on either side which has its mind made up. Another good piece on the topic comes from Pia de Solenni. And if anyone cares what the Cardinal himself has to say, he wrote a column about it for New York Catholic.

Concerning Pope Francis, "Trial Marriages" and Poorly Covered Media Rites

My friend Scott often remarks that when he hears reporting the latest "mold breaking" thing Pope Francis has said or done, then he knows it is time to look for indepth coverage. Because news bytes are inevitably wrong about how the Church works.

Here's an excellent piece from GetReligion which begins with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and then dives into how the news media has been representing Pope Francis' recent remarkable marriage of 20 couples. A follow-up piece, also from GetReligion, looks even further into the event and the heretofore unknown significance.

Your Marriage IS Worth Saving–And YOU Can Save It.

When Divorce is Not an Option: How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Everlasting Love is a book for couples who want to know what it takes to get their marriage back on track. Solo spouses can
also use the book to heal a marriage even if his or her mate isn’t interested in working on the relationship.
Dr. Greg Popcak, who I greatly respect, has a book that sounds as if a lot of couples could benefit from it.


  1. Yes, the jovial Cardinal is so modern and tolerant. He demonstrates the company line of the new and improved Church while jettisoning Sacred Tradition. Ah, he must be held up just like the Golden Calf. It would take more courage and fortitude to espouse what the Church has taught for two thousand years.

    1. Stephen, I'll say this for you, you are nothing if not consistent. Its kind of interesting that how your comments come off is as the same thing that you are accusing Cardinal Dolan of. A lack of insight about anyone who thinks differently from you. Interesting.

  2. Yes, the Christ-like portrayal of the jovial Cardinal by the modernists and secularists is the goal and should not be questioned. I am confident that St. Patrick would be ashamed of this celebration and would insist it be termed Irish Day parade. I stand with him and if that is sinful according to you, well all the better.

    1. Stephen, you have been much on my mind over the last few days. I realize this is risky because I don't know you aside from your comments, but I'd like to extend an invitation.

      As I ponder your obvious anger it makes me think of a similar sort of situation in my own life. I had a big discussion with a good friend who is a pro-abortion Catholic. We differed greatly on that subject and our discussion bounced around a lot while we both struggled to express ourselves, convince the other person, and not get angry with each other. There was no satisfactory conclusion to the discussion when we parted.

      I was angry with my friend for several days, dwelling on the inconsistencies in her arguments and so forth. I spent much time in prayer, trying to forgive her honestly and then getting angry all over again. Finally, I realized that I could not change her behavior, however much I wanted to. The only thing I could change was myself.

      This didn't mean giving up my beliefs or Church teachings. What it meant was responding to a very legitimate comment she made about seeing a lot of pro-life people talk about saving lives but not actually stepping out in real life to volunteer to help the poor, the unwed mothers, and so forth.

      This stung. I do a lot of volunteer work but on that particular issue, about which I am passionate, I did not do more than give it prayer and blogging time. So I pondered how best to try to use my small effort to make a difference. Eventually I settled upon helping a part of the life movement which I feel doesn't get much attention, the elderly. It began with spending more time with my mother-in-law in her assisted living and eventually wound up feeling that I needed to give more at that place. That is the genesis of our movie group which watches movies twice monthly and has lunch afterward to discuss them.

      That doesn't sound like much but it is in the one-on-one that I have learned to love all of these people who I otherwise never would have met. I am told that these movie lunches make a real difference in enriching their lives. I pray it is so. I can but give the effort and God has blessed me with receiving their friendship as well.

      All this is to urge you to take your anger over this issue and give it to God to ask Him what personal effort you can make in something related. You cannot take the beam from Cardinal Dolan's eye. However angry and betrayed you feel, it is simply not in your power. Take that energy, go to God, and ask him to show you a way to reach out and make a difference in lives near you. And it will make your prayers for forgiving Cardinal Dolan have just that much more power in your own life.

      I offer this as a Catholic friend and as a sister in Christ.

  3. Thank you for your chastisement, given in Christian charity. I learned years ago of the virtues and not once did I see joviality, the personal seeking of public acclaim, and tolerance listed on that side of the ledger. Rather I always found them on the opposite side, you know, where pride, envy etc are found. This decision to be, not only to be in attendance, but to be Master of Ceremonies of this parade of different identities (vs. being just Irish Catholic) to honor a Saint that deserves reverence not ridicule is discouraging and disheartening to myself and others as well. I take the utmost comfort in the Churches Liturgy, Sacraments and sacred traditions....wishy-washy prelates, not so much. I will dispense with bothering you again as we disagree...peace.

    1. Stephen, it was not meant as chastisement but as a helping hand. I am very sorry that you took it the wrong way. Your answer shows such myopia in not being able to take in what I am expressing that it makes me more sorry than I can express here. I will keep you in my prayers.

  4. I apologize it I offended you. I appreciate you taking time to make suggestions.

    1. I'm not offended at all Stephen. Just, as I said, saddened. I appreciate your apology. :-)