March 22nd, 2007
Imagine being tortured and raped, and then being forced to watch as the ‘evil-doers’ rape your daughter. All the while you know you do not have the information they want. You simply do not know where your son is, and these security forces want to find him.
No, this is not some plot out of a Stephen King novel. This atrocity actually happened in Chile in the early 1980s when the U.S supported, brutal Pinochet dictatorship was in power. As part of my formation as a Jesuit priest, I served in Chile from 1981-1984. Everyone was aware of the practice of torture in the country. The protest group Sebastian Acevedo regularly, and at great risk to themselves, publicly denounced the use of torture. The group was named after a father who set himself afire and died protesting the detention of his children by the government’s dreaded officers of the CNI. The Catholic Church excommunicated anyone who had anything to do with torture, a prophetic stance that infuriated the military sectors of the country.
The woman raped and tortured was freed through the intervention of the Archdiocese of Santiago’s Vicariate de la Solidaridad. At a press conference organized to publicize and denounce the incident, the woman was asked what she wanted done to those who tortured her. I’ll never forget her reply. “O, soy Catolica. Les perdono. Hay que ser enfermos mentales” (Oh, I am a Catholic. I forgive them. They must be mentally ill).
Another Chilean woman knew of her father, an Air Force General, being tortured daily for months by Pinochet’s minions. As a result of the constant torture sessions, the General died of a heart attack while in prison. The young woman and her mother were also taken and tortured for 21 days in the hell of the Villa Grimaldi detention center. Once released, they had to go into exile to protect and save their lives. Today that young woman is the president
March 20th, 2007
As we move deeper into Lent and Good Friday approaches, Christians devote special time to reflect on the Passion. We contemplate the meaning of Jesus, Christ crucified, perhaps even taking an afternoon to pray the Stations of the Cross.
I remember kneeling before the giant crucifix in the church from my childhood during Holy Week. As my mother prayed next to me, I would stare at this massive wooden Jesus, his face tilted downward and contorted with pain, the nails through his hands and feet so gruesome that the image is forever burned in my brain. While I knew to be sad for this man, he felt so other to me, an utter stranger to my world. Somewhere in my young mind I also knew he was God. As I grew older, this broken, unfamiliar man stood like a wall between me and my ability to cultivate a relationship with God.
The Feminine Divine
Then in graduate school I discovered theologians who discussed the feminine divine—Elizabeth Johnson, Sandra Schneiders, Rosemary Radford Ruether, among others—and I began to bridge the distance between me and God, between me and Jesus, daring to shift my God-images so they expressed the familiar feminine body, the same body that would empower me to reconnect with God and repair my relationship with Christ. Eventually, I began to propose this same feminine divine to the women students who populate my classes each semester—encouraging them to envision Christ Crucified with a woman’s body. For years I’ve struggled to help them make that connection but last semester I was armed with a new weapon. Madonna, the pop star, handed me a powerful teaching tool: her body on a cross.
The young, mostly Catholic women who take my classes aren’t terribly well prepared to tackle how we talk about and portray the feminine divine—at least at first.
Jesus Was a Man
“In Sunday School, we were told that God was a man,” chimed student last fall as I pushed the discussion into the uncharted territory of thinking about God in feminine terms. Other students nodded …
March 17th, 2007
The excerpt below is from an article written by BustedHalo editor-in-chief, Bill McGarvey for the March 17 edition of The Tablet a venerable London-based magazine of “progressive, but responsible Catholic thinking.”
“Judas!” the voice cried out from somewhere in the darkened seating area of Free Trade Hall in Manchester. It was 17 May, 1966, and on stage, Bob Dylan was coming to the end of another concert on a turbulent tour. Audiences that had hailed him as a genius just a year earlier now chastised him for daring to go “electric” with a full band, and for moving beyond the topical protest songs that had made him the great young hope of the folk scene. It had been this way throughout most of the tour with catcalls and boos from fans who couldn’t understand his new direction.
Being the “voice of a generation” can’t be an easy job. It is a position that the troubadour of modern culture – born Robert Zimmerman to a middle-class Jewish family from Hibbing, Minnesota – won very early on in his career and one he has always rejected. But I suspect it is this same antiquated notion of Bob Dylan that Pope Benedict XVI had in mind when he recently revealed that he had opposed plans for Dylan to perform at a 1997 concert for Pope John Paul II. “There was reason to be sceptical,” Benedict says in his new book John Paul II, My Beloved Predecessor, “to doubt if it was really right to let these types of prophets intervene.”
For Catholics like me – and, trust me, there are millions of us – who have been profoundly moved, nourished and simply entertained by Dylan’s music and countless other elements of pop culture, the pope’s comments felt like a betrayal of sorts as well. Fortunately, the then Cardinal Ratzinger’s arguments did not win the day back in 1997 and Dylan appeared as scheduled. Of course John Paul II used the event to his advantage (as he so often did), engaging people by preaching about the movement of the Holy
March 16th, 2007
March 17th marks St. Patrick’s Day, the Catholic feast day for the patron saint of Ireland, who died on that day in the 5th century.
Patrick was not Irish but was born in Wales in about AD 385 and for much of his youth did not practice the Catholic faith. He considered himself a pagan until the age of 16 when he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that raided his village and brought to Ireland. During his 6 year captivity, he became closer to God.
He did not remain in Ireland but instead escaped to Gaul (France) where he studied for the priesthood. In a dream he saw “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs stretching out their hands” to him. He understood this as his calling to convert the Irish Druids to Christianity.
His name was orginally Maewyn. He took the Christian name of Patrick after becoming a Catholic.
St. Patrick did not drive all the snakes from Ireland into the Irish Sea (Although some still say that this is why the sea is so rough). Snakes have never been indigenous to Ireland. Snakes are possibly a code word for the devil here. Some have also claimed that Patrick raised people from the dead. While many miracles have been attributed to Patrick this legend is, as the Irish say “a bunch of malarkey.”
After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died on March 17 around the year 461.
While the “wearin o’ the green” has become traditional dress, the color was often considered to be unlucky.
Pubs in Ireland were closed on St. Patrick’s Day, well into the 1970s.
It is a heresy to call Guinness “beer.” It is “dry stout” based upon the porter style that originated in London …
March 14th, 2007
Robert Anthony Siegel’s new novel All Will Be Revealed combines an engrossing plot with intricately drawn characters and a rich historical setting to create a book that is both entertaining and artistic in a way that literary novels so rarely are.
The book tells the story of Augustus Auerbach, a successful, wheelchair-bound pornographer living in late nineteenth century New York City and Verena Swann, a renowned spiritual medium and the widow of adventurer Captain Theodore Swann. The two meet when one of Auerbach’s models forces him to attend a séance at Swann’s home. At first skeptical, Auerbach becomes entranced by Swann who is able to summon her failing powers to channel Auerbach’s long lost mother. Verena Swann is torn between three men: the pornographer, her deceased husband and his brother, Leopold Swann who is her business partner and promoter. The plot of the novel moves deftly from Auerbach’s point of view to Verena Swann’s and back again, showing the worlds that they each inhabit and the insecurities that are inherent in their lives of deception.
All Will Be Revealed is the story of how the entrepreneurial spirit of Auerbach and Swann, can be tarnished by their own consciences. As a reader, it is a pleasure to dwell inside this novel. Siegel’s odd and flawed characters come to life, as if they could jump off the page and show the reader a pornographic photo or conduct a séance with her own lost loved ones.
On its surface, All Will Be Revealed is about the fantasy industry. Both Augustus Auerbach and Verena Swann are engaged in different forms of deception. Auerbach has amassed great wealth by creating the illusion of intimacy with his multi-dimensional stereograph portraits of sexual fantasies (a late 19th century version of the pornographic film). Swann, trades in spiritual illusion by pretending to connect with her client’s long, lost relatives.
“It is a pleasure to dwell inside the pages of this novel, as a reader. Siegel’s odd and flawed characters come
March 13th, 2007
Saint Joseph’s University’s Office of Mission & Identity present the next installment in their Catholic Intellectual Series
Ecclesia Virtualis: Catholics in the Blogosphere
For the First Time Anywhere…
Join us for a panel discussion on how the internet and blogs affect both the discourse on and the practice of Catholicism in America. Our panel features some of the leading voices on the Catholic Church in the blogosphere:
Author of the blog “Open Book“
Author of the blog “Whispers in the Loggia“
Associate Editor, Commonweal
*While we are not yet certain if the event will be streamed live, it will be filmed and available to watch online at some point.
WHERE: Chapel of St. Joseph
St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia
WHEN: Tuesday, March 20, 2007 7:30 pm, FREE
For further information, contact:
Rev. Daniel R. J. Joyce, S.J.
March 13th, 2007
In this secular society, what place does religion have in our public education system?
Compiled by Marc Adams reporting from the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress
March 6th, 2007
Verena Swann sat in her carriage, peeking through the curtain at the crowd of mourners filling the avenue. Derbies, bonnets, slick black umbrellas, here and there a pale, wet face like a camellia—pointed straight at her. They were waiting for her to open the door and get out, to become theirs—waiting for a woman who loved her husband so much she would not let him go, even in death.
Leopold, her brother-in-law, peered over her shoulder. “Look at this,” he whispered. “Thousands standing in the rain, for you.”
“For him,” she corrected. It was uncomfortable hearing the thought aloud. This was Theodore’s funeral, after all. They were here to honor him, to recognize the sacrifice he had made for his country.
“There’s no him without you,” said Leopold.
In a practical sense it was true: Verena was not only Theodore’s wife, but also his voice. Since his death, she had learned how to open herself like a door, so that his disembodied spirit could enter and fill her with his thoughts. She fell into a trance, and the two of them became entwined in a way she could not describe. His hand moved her pen. Her mouth formed his words. She shook with his laughter and cried with his sorrow.
Leopold sat back in his seat, clearly moved by the sight of the crowd. “All our hard work is finally paying off, isn’t it?”
The funeral, the crowds—they really were Leopold’s achievement. It was Leopold who had enlisted Verena in a campaign to raise funds for a rescue expedition. Under his direction, they had toured the country, lecturing on the history of Arctic exploration and the wonders of Spiritualism.
In the process, they had built Verena’s talent into a lucrative business. Verena was now the most famous spirit medium in the country. Her public séances were filled to capacity, and her private sittings commanded enormous fees. She was consulted by industrialists, politicians, and European nobility. She and Leopold moved through
February 26th, 2007
The St. Vincent De Paul Catholic School elementary girls’ basketball team was winning.
The Nashville school was almost all black, and they were playing a mostly white Catholic school. The white girls showed frowns of frustration—even anger—as did their parents in the bleachers. After the buzzer sounded, the girls started leaving the court when a couple of white girls from the losing squad called the St. Vincent team “niggers.”
The event wasn’t a bad memory from the civil rights era, Crystal Shelton, 20, is now an African American basketball player at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, recalled the incident from her elementary school days as she tried to convey an idea of what it means to grow up black and Catholic in the South.
The ‘N’ Word
“There were some freedoms that I found in the church as a convert that perhaps I didn’t find somewhere else, and there was a deep, deep history.”
“Our team was very good, and people would actually use the ‘N’ word against us,” Shelton said, “I couldn’t believe it. We would be winning games, and I was crying.”
Shelton’s team won the game but were upset afterwards by the racial slurs, “Our parents comforted us, most of whom had been discriminated against before” Shelton said. “Our parents told our athletic director. I believe the other team had to forfeit a game or something like that.”
Of course, prejudice exists in the United States. It still exists in overt and covert forms on both sides of the racial divide. And Catholics inhabit both the side that advocates for equality and tolerance, and the side that spews ethnic slurs.
But the Church itself is neither white nor black, and its members of all races often feel quite at home wherever they attend Mass and assume the responsibilities of Church members, despite the racism that still exists among Catholics in the South.
African Americans and The Catholic Church in West Tennessee
J. Terry Steib’s appointment as bishop of the Diocese of Memphis in 1993 was a landmark event in an effort begun with
February 23rd, 2007
Though less-renowned in the United States than in Great Britain, William Wilberforce (1759-1833) was a member of Parliament who fought an epic battle for two decades to end the slave trade in the British Empire. While he is remembered primarily as legendary social reformer, Wilberforce’s tireless commitment to justice was animated by his deeply held Christian faith. His convictions were nurtured under the mentorship of John Newton, the former slave ship captain who renounced his work and devoted the rest of his life to Christian ministry (he also composed numerous hymns including the timeless “Amazing Grace”).
In the newly released film, Amazing Grace, Wilberforce’s life is depicted as a powerful example of how politics and faith can harmonize together for the common good. It is a message that was certainly on the minds of director Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough, Nell, Coal Miner’s Daughter) and the actor who portrays Wilberforce, Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four, Black Hawk Down). In a recent conversation with BustedHalo both men spoke about Wilberforce and how his successful combination of his beliefs and his politics is a lesson the world would be wise to pay attention to today.
BustedHalo: What was it like playing such an important historical figure like Wilberforce?
Ioan Gruffudd: On this movie I was educated myself about this great man and this movement. It’s a very humbling experience when you represent a character like this. You realize how much one can achieve in a lifetime and how brave and how extraordinary these people were. Of course you reflect on
and think I could be doing much more. It’s not that hard to stand alone. And in this day and age you daren’t say anything because it’s deemed seditious…it’s ridiculous. And that what was happening to Wilberforce at the time. In time of war, he was deemed seditious to even talk about anything else. What I loved about the story is you see politics working for the greater good here. I
February 22nd, 2007
Does the fact that there is a Black History month say something about the way in which Black history is covered in the American Education System? If so what and why?
February 21st, 2007
As a child, Lent represented a springtime of denial leading up to the chocolate-filled celebration of Easter, but as an adult I now understand a bit more why Christians have traditionally embraced the threefold Lenten discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Simply put, we are creatures of habit and Lent gives us a reason each year to look at our habits and to see which ones draw us closer to God and which ones drive us further away from Him.
Having had too many New Year’s resolutions derailed by trying to fix everything at once, I’ve developed a brief discernment process regarding Lenten resolutions that has borne fruit for me in years past. Typically, I start thinking about the whole topic in the month approaching Ash Wednesday. When I have a moment or two on my commute or some down time before bed, I think about the relationships in my life and what needs help and healing. How am I doing in how I relate to God, to myself and to others? In what areas do I experience life-giving love? In what areas do I feel tempted to sin?
These small moments of contemplation then fuel my prayer. I bring these thoughts to God and ask for help in deciding what I can tackle in Lent.
Here’s a short checklist I have that helps me decide if what I am contemplating is manageable. Are the resolutions:
You’re not the worst sinner in the world and it’s prideful to think so, as a Jesuit friend once told me. If you’re consumed with everything you’re not doing right, you need to speak to a spiritual advisor to gain some perspective.
To borrow a term from the corporate world, what can I reasonably take on in the forty days of Lent to help me grow in my spiritual life? Maybe going to Mass each day isn’t possible, but maybe going to daily Mass once a week in Lent is.
A friend of mine in college gave up eating French fries
February 20th, 2007
“Like My Body?” she slurs, lacing her fingers up her voluptuous figure and then throwing them up in the air. Introducing Kanye West at the 2004 American Music Awards, Anna Nicole Smith, high on drugs, spreads her arms saying, “If ever I make an album, I want this guy to make my make me beautiful duet!” As she lowers her head and claps, the crowd roars its approval.
But the scene is eerie, the sound of her voice alluding to the TrimSpa ad campaign for which she was the spokeswoman is almost haunting after her death. Her tottering appearance drew much publicity and comic fodder throughout the rest of the program, and her representatives, of course, scrambled to cover it up saying Anna’s presentation was due to fatigue and her slur due to not having her contacts in. But was anyone looking at the woman herself? It is a scary thing when we the American public can watch TV laughing and applauding as someone self destructs right in front of us. Why are we surprised at her death? Anna Nicole Smith, like many women today, did everything to be beautiful and be accepted in this society, but she was dying inside long before her body succumbed last week.
Spiritual death; the painful compression of one’s true self into another’s prescribed mold. Actresses, models, women of all races kill themselves to fit a glittering image of “perfection” in America. Whether it be through binging and vomiting her body away, straightening the last kink out of her hair, slitting the slant in her eyes, stretching her skin back, or altering herself to uphold the young, white, blonde, thin and flawless ideal. These women make a choice to do this, to increase their appeal and success, but the tragedy of it all is that living to fit this or any mold is really a death of sorts.
Putting her rollercoaster life aside, Anna Nicole Smith was an extreme case of a woman whose entire self
February 16th, 2007
…Sr. Mary Eve responds…
The reader response to Sr. Mary Eve’s article on The Vagina Monologues has been nothing short of overwhelming. In one 24-hour period, more than 10,000 people read it—an all-time high for a single feature on BustedHalo.com—thanks in a part to the piece being picked up by a number of other web outlets like AndrewSullivan.com, New Oxford Review, spiritdaily and Whispers in the Loggia.
Below is a selection of letters that Sr. Mary Eve responds directly to. On subsequent pages we’ve published some of the emails we’ve received from readers.
Sr. Mary Eve responds
Among the responses generated by my article, the majority of them defended the Virgin Birth. Adam Streitenberger wrote in giving the sources for this dogmatic teaching of the Church:
“I had one correction for your article. It is in fact defined doctrine that Mary’s virginity remains not only before, during, and after the birth of Christ, but that her hymen, in fact, remained intact. Though the opinion of Ray Brown may disagree, Vatican II, nonetheless, defined this in footnote 10 in Paragraph 57 of Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium. As you know, Lumen Gentium is a dogmatic statement of extraordinary infallibility. The text reads: “57. This union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to His death it is shown first of all when Mary, arising in haste to go to visit Elizabeth, is greeted by her as blessed because of her belief in the promise of salvation and the precursor leaped with joy in the womb of his mother (cf. Luke 1:41-45). This union is manifest also at the birth of Our Lord, who did not diminish His mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it,(10*) when the Mother of God joyfully showed her firstborn Son to the shepherds and Magi.” The footnote contains four references that clearly state the physical intactness of Mary’s hymen during and after the birth of Christ. The texts refers to the First Lateran
February 15th, 2007
Have you ever been to a protest or political rally? If so, what was that like? What issues would cause you to protest?
February 14th, 2007
When I was 16, I memorized the sheet music to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and gave my crush a Valentine’s Day concert. At 23, I baked heart-shaped brownies for my man of the moment—which he enjoyed, but asked why they were shaped funny.
Otherwise, I’ve spent most Feb. 14s by myself. It doesn’t feel terrific. And I know on that score, I am not alone.
But those of you who are moping around this Valentine’s Day, jealously eyeing happy couples, should relax. The sappy pink-and-red hearts in all the drug store windows may make you lose hope that you’ll ever find a partner, but the facts tell a different story: Cupid is still alive and well, no matter where you live.
Buy the Numbers
Yes, national census data tells us that some 32% of men and 24% of women ages 30 to 34 have yet to marry—nearly a four-fold increase since 1970. But we’re not staying single forever; we’re just marrying later. Nine out of ten of Americans tie the knot. That’s pretty good odds.
And while we may think our city is the worst climate for finding a partner, the odds of getting married are just as high in big cities and small towns nationwide. But since people stay single longer in big cities, the chances you’ll meet your match later in life is much higher in a population-dense area like Chicago, New York or Dallas than in a small town.
Why are we marrying later? Because, in general, we invest in our careers and education in our 20s instead of organizing a concentrated search for a life partner. Among 30 to 34 year olds, 59% have now completed at least some college, and nearly one-third have completed a bachelor’s degree or more.
“Why are we marrying later? Because, in general, we invest in our careers and education in our 20s instead of organizing a concentrated search for a life partner.”
So if you talk to men and women in their early 20s, chances are they are single or in a less-than-serious relationship. But fast-forward two decades,
February 12th, 2007
You can feel it in the air—the mad rush on Tiffany’s, restaurants booked-up for prix fixe dinners, store shelves cleared of teddy bears, chocolate and flowers. (And if you’re waiting until now to pick up any of these, good luck.)
Valentine’s Day—”Lovers’ Day,” as it’s called in the Romance languages—is right around the corner. It’s been celebrated for centuries, but these days, for my generation, I can’t help but wonder sometimes what February 14th means to us… and what it doesn’t.
My inner amateur sociologist has long maintained a particular curiosity about relationships, partly because mine have the curious habit of becoming disasters of an exceptional kind and I could use some pointers.
Sure, it could be said that my not-so-inner Italian hotheadedness has contributed to this, but only on occasion. The rest of the time—and this isn’t to absolve me of the many sins I’ve committed in the dating department—I’ve come to find that the culprit is something much bigger than myself and, for that matter, any one of us.
I’ve seen a lot of relationships and near-misses in my time: within my family, my circle of friends, my own turns at the roulette wheel. And looking around, it’s easy to be just a bit wary at the state of things.
You see, I’m blessed and lucky to have learned from my parents’ playbook. After 26 years of marriage, it’s an inheritance worth its weight in gold. Sure, how my Mom and Dad treat each other and handle the hurdles of life is heavily drawn from the ways of the old school, but I’ve never known a happier, more fulfilled couple—not to mention that it’s rarer still when you can say this about people you’ve spent most of your life actually living with.
The Sky is Falling?
But most of my contemporaries haven’t had this kind of example—and the modern scene is paying a heavy price for the lack of it. You’ll hear a lot of “sky is falling” rhetoric out there about how the legal sanction of same-sex unions will
February 7th, 2007
Andy Millman is the patron saint of resentment. The perpetually put-upon actor has love handles but no love life, recently landed a role in a sitcom that has been generously described as a “sh*tcom,” and retains the professional services of the worst talent agent in the United Kingdom. Yet in the hands of Ricky Gervais, the star and co-creator of the HBO series “Extras,” (Sunday nights on HBO at 10pm) Andy Millman’s unending misery is comic delight.
“Extras,” which centers on the awful travails of Millman’s bizarre career, is the funniest and cleverest show on TV. Now in its second season, it is yet another reason to buy a subscription to HBO. (In addition to “The Sopranos” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” another added benefit of an HBO subscription is discovering that, according to the network’s “Rome,” which precedes “Extras” on Sunday night, poor people in antiquity spoke with Cockney accents.)
The guiltiest pleasure of “Extras” is watching movie stars demolish their carefully constructed public personae. Andy Millman is a longtime “extra” in the film industry and regularly rubs shoulders with the glitterati that Americans read about in Us Weekly, and Brits in their issues of Hello. Kate Winslet appears in Holocaust-themed movie because she believes it makes her a lock to receive an Academy Award. Orlando Bloom is obsessed with his appearance. (“I’m objectively good-looking,” he says.) And Daniel Radcliffe—of Harry Potter fame—is a dirty young man who propositions every woman on the set, boasts of his sexual prowess and brandishes an unused condom during a lunch conversation. Somehow the condom lands on the head of Dame Diana Riggs (of the 60s show, “The Avengers”), leading to a line that you will never hear in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
“May I have my prophylactic back, please?”
In last season’s finale, Patrick Stewart played himself as a horny old goat with a bloated ego. Stewart has an idea for a new film in which an average man discovers he has the same powers as Stewart’s X-Men
February 6th, 2007
Do you like talking with people of different religious or political beliefs than you have? Have you ever had a conversation with someone of different views in which your own view changed as a result?