Lots of good Catholic feast days lately. My traditional missal contains masses for the feast days at around this time of the year of St Francis Assisi and St Teresa of the Child Jesus (the "Little Flower"). The mass for St Francis alludes delicately to his receiving the stigmata, and that for the Little Flower contains references to various flowers. But my favourite use of these subtle allusions is in the mass for St Joseph Cupertino, whose feast is on 18 September. He is most famous for the accounts of his miraculous levitations
. He was the most "levitated" saint, with many sober people reporting his flights. His mass contains the following texts: "O God, who didst ordain that Thine only-begotten Son should be lifted up above the earth ... grant that ... we may be lifted up above all earthly desires ..." and "The eye of God hath looked upon him for good, and hath lifted him up from his low estate ...".
*Steve Sailer on the Church's Priest Problem
As usual Steve
has some interesting remarks, due to his particular analytical approach. Here is the specific link
. I think he is correct in suggesting that the priesthood is less attractive now that Catholic families don't produce sons like they used to. My own father was aimed by his mother at the priesthood. She had two other sons, so why not? In the event, it was not for him; which explains why you are reading this. The same thing presumably applies to daughters becoming nuns; although the collapse of the female orders had more to do with Vatican II than anything else. There are various theories on why Vatican II hit women religious like a tsunami, but one obvious point is that the new importance given the laity tended to undermine the very point of the female consecrated life. If one could be holy in the world, why withdraw from it, was the thinking. And nuns do not have the sacraments to administer.
I was quite stunned when I heard that Benedict XVI had banned all homosexuals as candidates for the priesthood. I was pleased when he was chosen as Pope, but I did not share in the euphoria among some of my acquaintances. I remained to be convinced that another "man of Vatican II" would undo any of the manifest damage since that council. I did have the faint hope that he would move carefully but inexorably to make some real changes. I felt he was likely to be less showy, indeed meretricious, than John Paul II; and I hoped that he might show more substance. But some of the original signs were not good, and I had resigned myself to hoping that Benny would be, at best, King Log - that is, maintain a reign of benign neglect after the hyperactivity of his predecessor.
One would never know it from the media spin, but John Paul II was, in some respects, a very liberal pope. He certainly never resiled from the direction and "spirit" of Vatican II and had an apparently undiminished (and unfounded) optimism that the council would bring marvellous fruits. While I think he was a great man, I am not at all convinced that he was a "great pope", as Benedict termed him; still less that he should become St John Paul the Great.
I suspect that Benedict knows quite well that the Church is in a mess, and how she got there, and what needs to be done. The disastrous policies that led to such humiliations as the clerical sexual abuse scandal must be reversed; and Benedict apparently has the guts to do it. I would like to see him reverse some of the other Johannopauline policies, including the sentimental feminism expressed in some of Wojtyla's written outpourings. I suspect that the last statement of the late papacy on "men and women" was largely penned and influenced by Benedict, given its more traditional tone, and we may see more of this now that he is actually Pope. Also, Benedict is a geopolitical realist, as befits a German, and I don't think he will be following John Paul's example by smooching any Korans.
Steve Sailer mentions two possibilities, one of which isn't. The first is women priests. Not going to happen for all sorts of reasons. The second is married priests: possible but not likely. Certainly it is not doctrinally impossible, like women priests, but it goes against the entire Latin tradition. A priest is meant to be "married" to the Church as his bride. This is impossible for a woman, and difficult for a married man, who already has a bride. Likewise, it is difficult for a homosexual, whose inclinations are not in that direction.
A major problem in the Church - I am tempted to say the
major problem - is that the sexual symbolism is weakened at the moment. In a matter of a few decades we have abandoned many of the sexual and marital symbols that used to characterise our incarnational religion: the all-male sanctuary, women with covered heads in church, an emphasis on the heterosexuality of priests. Bishops and priests used to be manly. These days they are anything but.
I usually attend a Traditional Latin Mass, at which these symbolisms survive. But the wider church has largely abandoned them. We are not as far along as the American Episcopalians, of course, but the same gnosticising tendency to eliminate all sexual distinctions is at work.
*Another TV show about Hobbits, Homo floresiensis
The ABC, here in Australia, showed a documentary recently on the "Hobbit" fossils from Indonesia. The thrust of the program was that the Hobbits, Homo floresiensis
, were Homo erectus
that experienced "island dwarfing" down to a tiny size. There was much "messing about in boats", or rather a bamboo raft, in the documentary, allegedly to show that Homo erectus
could have crossed to Flores Island, where the Hobbits lived. Skulls of Homo erectus
were compared to Homo floresiensis
, and it was claimed that the latter resembled a much reduced version of the former.
The "island dwarfing" was supposedly due to a shortage of food on Flores, which also led apparently to smaller size in the local species of elephant.
Villagers on Flores told a story of how tiny Hobbit-like humans used to live on a nearby mountain until conflict with the villagers led to their demise a few generations ago.
I found none of this particularly impressive. Bamboo rafts seemed merely a diversion. To assign the small size of a hominid on Flores to "island dwarfing" seems to depend on an argument that Flores is a small island (it isn't); that there were few resources (despite the existence of rats, giant lizards and elephants); and that humans typically get small on islands (they don't). Also, why did a supposed shortage of resources produce small elephants but giant lizards?
When the Hobbits were recreated on the screen, their environment was shown as heavily forested. This is consistent with suggestions that the palaeoenvironment was in fact rainforest.
Here is my take on the situation. Evidence suggests that hominids, either Hobbits or their ancestors, lived on Flores over about 80,000 years until about 20,000 years ago. During this time they used a modern human toolkit. My proposal would be that they reached Flores as archaic Homo sapiens
, the skulls of which bear some resemblance to the Hobbits in overall form. Under long selective pressure in a rainforest environment, they developed the typical traits of modern humans in that environment, notably dwarfism (Cf. Pygmies, Negritos). The force and duration of the selective pressure led to an extreme pygmoid type, which included diminution of the entire skeleton including the skull. The brain was "packed" with great efficiency, permitting normal intelligence despite a very small brain size, the use of a modern human tool kit and modern hunting capabilities.
*Fiddling with my blogroll
Just added The Devout Life
to my blogroll, and restored Fiat Mihi
, which is back from a break.