Friday, July 25, 2008


Shakespeare, Ideology, and the Catholic Church

Robert Miola has a devastating review of Joseph Pearce's The Quest for Shakespeare in the current issue of First Things. Miola says that Pearce's work suffers from two fatal flaws: firstly, Pearce's biographical account of Shakespeare appears to exhibit no real familiarity with the rudiments of modern Shakespeare scholarship. While I have no pretensions to Shakespearean historiography, this seems about right to me. I had seen lighter versions of Pearce's fundamental thesis pop up in various conservative Catholic media outlets previously, and I always thought it was a bit ridiculous. Despite my limited knowledge of Shakespeare and his place in English history, I could not quite fathom how one of the most overly-researched figures in English literature could lately be discovered as a Catholic.

The larger and more important criticism that Miola makes is to pose the question of why a recusant Shakespeare matters at all. Though Miola does not put it so forcefully, he seems to indicate that Pearce's work is primarily ideology masquerading as scholarship, noting with irony that Pearce himself decries such ideologically-driven scholarship when in the form of post-structuralist theory. In short, Miola argues that, in attempting to locate a Catholic Bard, Pearce operates within the same structural and methodological world as his ideological opponents.

If Miola is correct, then I would suggest that Pearce's work is representative of a larger trend within the world of conservative Catholicism, namely the tendency to express the faith within a neat framework of ideological concepts. Such ideology typically divides the world into opposing theological schemes, between which there can be little hope of reconciliation or even understanding. Needless to say, one of these schemes would be considered intrinsically orthodox, and the rest are to be thought of as essentially heretical. Google the phrase "save the liturgy, save the world" sometime, and you can see some excellent examples of what I refer to here.

I think this is trend is fundamentally destructive, and runs counter to the aims that most faithful Catholics hope to achieve within the Church. Conservative Catholics would do well to remember that a slavish commitment to ideology is part of what led to the current mess within the Church. A simple inversion of liberal ideology which masquerades under the label of orthodoxy will not solve any problems, and is likely only to perpetuate them in the long run. The Catholic "worldview" (if there is such a thing) is one that sees things for what they really are. Jesus Christ is the eternal Word that grounds all reality, and our call to conversion is a call to union with that Reality. Ideology, whether conservative or liberal, is a move away from what is real, towards our own self-constructed ideas, and must inevitably lead away from Christ Himself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Something cool.

From a reader:
Dear x-Catholics,I found your blog and I thought that you might be interested in the musical act called The Priests. What separates this classical trio from others is that they really are catholic priests, who have recently signed a recording contract with Sony BMG. They are currently recording an album of classic hymns from the Latin Mass but you can find them on their website and even on youtube If you like what you hear it would be great if you could help them become better known to the public by mentioning them in one of your blog posts one day.

The link didn't work for me tonight, but you can use this one.

Alasdair MacIntyre and the RNC

The 2008 RNC is being held here in my hometown of St Paul, MN, and as the event gets closer, our local paper is filling up with daily news items about various protests that have been planned. I think of Alasdair MacIntyre whenever I see these stories:

"It is easy also to understand why protest becomes a distinctive moral feature of the modern age and why indignation is a predominant modern emotion. 'To protest' and its Latin predecessors and French cognates are originally as often or more often positive as negative; to protest was once to bear witness to something and only as a consequence of that allegiance to bear witness against something else."

"But protest is now almost entirely that negative phenomenon which characteristically occurs as a reaction to the alleged invasion of someone’s rights in the name of someone else’s utility. The self-assertive shrillness of protest arises because the facts of incommensurability ensure that protestors can never win an argument; the indignant self-righteousness arises because the facts of incommensurability ensure equally that the protestor can never lose an argument either. Hence the utterance of protest is characteristically addressed to those who already share the protestors’ premises. The effects of incommensurability ensure that the protestors rarely have anyone else to talk to but themselves. This is not to say that protest cannot be effective; it is to say that it cannot be rationally effective and that its dominant modes of expression give evidence of a certain perhaps unconscious awareness of this."

MacIntyre, After Virtue

Ironically enough, all these planned protests require a permit from the city, a nice bureaucratic-managerial touch which MacIntyre would likely appreciate for its absurd irony.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Word Youth Day report: this is cool...

Australia's largest-ever crowd falls silent...

Sydney, Jul. 21, 2008 ( - At the height of the World Youth Day (WYD) celebration, the Randwick racetrack outside Sydney became the 10th-largest "city" in Australia-- a city in which 200,000 joined in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacraments, and 1,000 priests were mobilized to hear confessions.

Australian officials report that the Sunday-morning Mass at Randwick on July 20 saw the largest single gathering of people in the country's history. An estimated 400,000 people joined in the congregation as Pope Benedict presided at the closing Mass of WYD.

Earlier, at a Saturday-evening prayer vigil, about 200,000 young people joined the Holy Father in silent prayer before the Eucharist after Benediction. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed for 24-hour veneration in a tent maintained by the Missionaries of Charity at one side of the racetrack venue. The tent remained crowded, with prayerful pilgrims coming and going throughout the night.

WYD organizers had set up 250 locations around Sydney for young people to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, and recruited priests to hear confessions in a number of different languages. Long lines formed for confession, noted Msgr. Marc Caron, who organized that aspect of the WYD project. He reported that over 1,000 priests were busy hearing confessions at a time to accommodate the young pilgrims.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Benedictio Cerevisiae

Blessing of Beer
V. Adiutorium nostrum in nomine Domini.
R. Qui fecit caelum et terram.
V. Dominus vobiscum.
R. Et cum spiritu tuo.

Bene+dic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisiae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi, et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti; ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corpus et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
R. Amen.

Et aspergatur aqua benedicta.

English translation

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.
Bless, + O Lord, this creature beer, which thou hast deigned to produce from the fat of grain: that it may be a salutary remedy to the human race, and grant through the invocation of thy holy name; that, whoever shall drink it, may gain health in body and peace in soul. Through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.

And it is sprinkled with holy water.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Ruin

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Communio Personarum