On the devil inside

13 06 2011

Above: A Ukrainian Eastern-rite sedevacantist excommunicates the past two Popes. Damn, I love Youtube.

“You’ve got the devil in you!”

Such a phrase has resonated in my life for almost twelve years now. Such resonance, however, has not always been front in center, or even audible, in my own mind. When I first heard it, I concluded the opposite. That woman must have had the devil in her: the devil in our pluralistic society who shouts down all differences, who affirms people “just as they are”, and who makes them feel comfortable about themselves, no matter how they are living. In other words, there was no way a twenty year old, full of piss and vinegar, was going to listen to some nosy woman riding on that bus in east Oakland in 1999.
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San Honesto

2 05 2011

A totally made-up “folk saint” whose story can be found here.


20 04 2011

Fr. Thomas Reese has an interesting article in one of my favorite Catholic newspapers, the National Catholic Reporter, concerning the hidden exodus of Catholics into Protestantism. Some interesting quotes:

The principal reasons given by people who leave the church to become Protestant are that their “spiritual needs were not being met” in the Catholic church (71 percent) and they “found a religion they like more” (70 percent). Eighty-one percent of respondents say they joined their new church because they enjoy the religious service and style of worship of their new faith…

Catholics who became Protestant also claim to have a stronger faith now than when they were children or teenagers. Seventy-one percent say their faith is “very strong,” while only 35 percent and 22 percent reported that their faith was very strong when they were children and teenagers, respectively. On the other hand, only 46 percent of those who are still Catholic report their faith as “very strong” today as an adult.

Thus, both as believers and as worshipers, Catholics who become Protestants are statistically better Christians than those who stay Catholic. We are losing the best, not the worst.

You mean, they get all the good people, and all we get is all of those damn converts with blogs!
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On anxiety

22 03 2011

I just found this interesting:

I think Americans have become extremely vulnerable to the pressures of the 21st century. For the past 50 years, we’ve been getting progressively more anxious in good economic times and bad, so we can’t even blame it on the recession. As I was conducting research for the book, psychologists pointed to three basic reasons why our psychic state is deteriorating. The first is a simple matter of social disconnection. As we spend more time with our electronic devices than we do with our neighbors, we lose our physical sense of community. Social isolation flies in the face of our evolutionary history. The second major cause is the information overload that we’re experiencing with the Internet and the 24-hour media cycle. We’re all aware of it, but I’m not sure we realize how big an impact it’s having on our brains. The third explanation can be attributed to what one psychologist refers to as a culture of “feel goodism” — the idea that we shouldn’t ever have to be upset and that all our negative emotions can be neutralized with a pill. This to me feels like a distinctly American phenomenon…

You might think that jobs that require the biggest amount of work or the longest hours would be the worst, but that’s not actually the case. The most anxiety-producing jobs are the ones in which the employee has very little control over what he or she does during the workday…The notion of executive stress syndrome — the idea that bosses and corporate executives experience much higher levels of anxiety than their underlings — has proven to be total bullshit. Executives tend to have more control over what they’re doing, and they often displace their anxieties on the people that work beneath them.

A picture is worth, et al.

16 03 2011

Sort of where I am religiously at this point.

If you need a translation, you suck.

The unpreachable god

7 03 2011

I have a great affection for far-right wing Catholic traditionalist rhetoric. Somehow, I like hearing all the ways that I am going to Hell. Since I was affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X when I was still at a tender age for a young man, I think there is some sort of bizarre nostalgia at work. I remember my scowling and nice-but-crazy professors in the seminary in Argentina talking about how the Freemasons were taking over the Church, the Jews were taking over the world, the Catholic clergy was infested with communists, etc. Indeed, for someone who considered himself a Marxist only a couple of years earlier, this was a surreal situation to say the least. Perhaps that is why I took refuge in the study of Patristics and the Eastern Church; part of me realized I had made a huge mistake (a 3,000 miles away from home sized mistake). But the entire experience has given me an insatiable appetite for right-wing Catholic rhetoric, especially the “everyone’s going to Hell (except me)” variety. Call it Jansenism, clerical fascism, or most accurately, theological snuff porn.
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El mal de ojo – II

1 03 2011

This video is from Ecuador, but it applies to Mexico as well. When I say Catholicism in Latin America is “90% spiritist”, this is sort of what I am getting at. All Mexican and other Latin American families have their own stories concerning this phenomenon.

Here is a link of a short film on the evil eye in the Mexican context.

Notes on community and liturgy, virtual and otherwise

28 02 2011

This post is inspired by this one. Really, I have very little time and will to write for that site anymore, and posts like that are the reason why.

EWTN as a new “subculture”? A new “ghetto”? The thing about ghettoes is that you don’t choose to live in one. It is never about choice. Those who aspire to a ghetto are the ones we know have no idea what they are talking about. One of the common themes of this blog is that those who have nostalgia for the “Catholic past” don’t remember it all that well. They remember the deference that some had for the clergy, the supposed “reverence” inspired more by social taboo than anything else, and the remnants of architecture that have not been razed yet in modern times. They forget the bigotry, the witchcraft, the “superstition”, and the cruel cosmos that was at the center of the “old ways”. People like this who are nostalgic for the old subculture merely want a crypto-Protestant evangelical, Republican Party in prayer, Christianity with props that they don’t even understand. I hate to get all “racial” about it, but a bunch of newly minted “middle class white Christians” with vowels on their last names are not going to remake “Christendom”. A few cult-like Catholic communes are not going to save the world.
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Too good not to re-post

1 02 2011


Some superficial notes on Pascal

31 01 2011

I read a post recently on Pascal’s wager. Overall, I am not so sure of the tone taken by most of the participants in that discussion. But one must point out first that Pascal’s wager takes place in the context of his anthropology. Being a Jansenist, he was profoundly pessimistic about the powers of man, while giving great weight to the infinite power of God. This quote, also from his Pensees, came to mind in connection to this issue:

One little thought could not be made to arise from all bodies taken together, for this is impossible and they are of different orders. One single movement of true charity could not be derived from all bodies and all spirits; for that is impossible. It is of another order, and is supernatural.

While there is an “orthodox” interpretation of this idea, in the Jansenist mind, this means that the natural order is more than superfluous when applied to revealed truths. In a sense, the heavens could not sing the glory of God in Pascal. They are part of a barren universe devoid of meaning. They sing nothing, or if they sing something, it is a lie.

Related to this is perhaps the response that Pascal may have given to the author of the post cited above when he says that the courage of conviction is more important than the fear of eternal loss at the heart of the wager. There is a Spanish saying that goes, él que se salva sabe todo, él que no se salva no sabe nada (he who is saved knows everything, he who is not saved knows nothing. In traditional Christian discourse, salvation is an absolute good that determines all others. While one could try to hold to the idea of the absolute justice of God, the argument is a bit of a cop out because we have no real idea what that justice would look like.

Which gets me to the false presupposition at the heart of the argument. The presupposition, alluded to by Christopher Hitchens, is that a God who would offer Pascal’s wager would be foolish and far from sincere. The death bed conversion, embodied best by the Good Thief on the Cross, is a sign that God is a finicky monarch who is satisified by mere flattery. This extends further into the very modern notion that God’s behavior has to be reasonable and acceptable to modern attitudes. The fear at the center of these attitudes is that God’s behavior may be completely contigent, that absurdity and capriciousness are signs of the absolute power of God, and not signs that God doesn’t exist. In Pascal and the “traditional” world, one can be saved by dumb luck and bad faith. Such an idea for us seems vulgar and perverse. That is why many have to argue for universal salvation, and so forth. A god who would behave otherwise would be “unpreachable”.