Friday, February 25, 2005

Latest update on Terri "Judge Orders Schiavo Feeding Tube Removed March 18"

Cardinal Martino Appeals for Terri Schiavo

Zenit News Agency: "In statements on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: 'If Mr. Schiavo succeeds legally in causing the death of his wife, this not only would be tragic in itself, but would be a grave step toward the legal approval of euthanasia in the United States.' "

Florida Department of Children & Families Said Probing Schiavo Abuse

ABC News reports that a Florida social services agency may request an additional delay of 60 days in the removal of Terri Schindler Schiavo's feeding tube. Please keep her in your prayers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Terri Schiavo Gets Another Reprieve

Bloomberg reports that Terri Schindler Schiavo now has until Friday, February 25, before Judge George Greer considers starving her again. Please contact Governor Jeb Bush, let him know the issue is important to you, and ask him to do whatever is in his power to save Terri.

An Inconvenient Woman Gains a Day

Terri Schindler Schiavo has gained a reprieve. Judge George Greer has ordered her feeding tube to remain in place at least until 4PM Central Time today. Please keep her and her family in your prayers.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Then, After I Showered, I Read This Book

In his novel "The Magic Mountain", Thomas Mann wrote that only the truly exhaustive is interesting. George Weigel may have taken Mann's maxim to heart when writing this massive biography of Pope John Paul II. Extensively researched and meticulously cross-referenced, this 900-plus page book seems to approach its subject by subtly appropriating methods and styles associated with the Pope, viz.,

1) Weigel places the focus of the book on the person of Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II), rather than on abstract questions of ecclesiology, theology, or politics;

2) he approaches his subject discursively and from as many different perspectives and backgrounds as possible, taking the reader through fascinating presentations of Polish culture, World War II realities, Cold War geopolitics, Marxist socialism, the turbulence of the Second Vatican Council, the history of post-Revolution church-state relations in France, etc.;

3) he adopts a motto of John Paul II's phenomenology and attempts to understand his subjects "from the inside," to try to arrive at a sympathetic and experiential depth view of his subject; and

4) he presents the action of the book as a drama that unfolds, as poetic, and as prophetic vision.

A demanding read, not that it is exceedingly obscure or technical but due to the encyclopedic breadth of its narrative and its digressions, it is nonetheless a compelling read, particularly in the initial chapters and through most of the chapters on the pontificate. (The later chapters lose a bit of their edge, largely, one would think, because it becomes most difficult to frame contemporaneous events, absent the perspective that the passage of at least a few years gives.) The first quarter of the book concerns Karol Wojtyla before his election. This launches the book forward, since he is depicted so distinct and vividly in spiritually heroic and charismatic terms that, although the reader may be very familiar with John Paul II's pontificate, the reader will be pulled forward in the book by the strong desire to see how this man, the "Lolek" of this book, rises to the challenges of the papacy.

Weigel's writing is at all times respectful of the Pontiff -- he obviously admires John Paul II greatly. Weigel, an orthodox American Catholic, does not shrink from pointing out instances where he believes this papacy has stumbled or failed, such as His Holiness's frustrated (at least for the time being) initiatives to restore unity with the Orthodox Churches.

This biography also points down further avenues for understanding a slice of 20th century history -- works by phenomenologists such as Husserl and Scheler, the writings of Edith Stein, the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and Wojtyla's plays, philosophical treatises, and religious writing. It's always a particular reward when a book points to further areas to explore.

The College of Cardinals elected Wojtyla pope when this writer was still a teenager. Most of the import of it was lost on us, sadly -- adolescence has its own priorities. Weigel's book allows a chance to view that time through a new lens, to see movement and patterns in current history to which may have been missed the first time around.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Da Vinci, Cold

It's been a while since our DVC post, so we thought we'd add our review of the book. We didn't want to leave the reader with the impression that the book was a fascism fest. It's is a pretty formulaic page turner, a fun quick read. Written at about the level of the average Nancy Drew mystery, it is best appreciated at that level. As far as the content, there are howlers on virtually every page (starting with the hero who looks like "Harrison Ford in Harris tweed" and is a "Professor of Religious Symbology at Harvard" -- good work if you can find it). You have to ignore very pulpy, cheesy writing to enjoy this romantic thriller.

Intended as a book that a dedicated reader could finish in a day, or something you take to the beach and casually finish in a weekend, "The Da Vinci Code" makes for a reasonable airline novel, so much so that it is often a bit clunky in its desire to ensure that no intellectual effort on the reader's part will be required. Here's a recurring example in this novel: a bit of unfamiliar terminology, say "crux gemmata" (jeweled cross) will will be explained, then one page later a character will finger his jeweled cross and explain, "Oh, yes -- this is a crux gemmata." We've read dinner menus that were more demanding on the reader. Sharing the book with Mrs. Thumos, we both read about a third of it in a day, sharing the same copy, and that's a full work day plus taking care of kids, bedtime, etc. That's also a kind of virtue, we guess -- it's fast and peppy.

As far as history goes, Dan Brown apparently thinks that "most historians" give credence to the forgeries and frauds promoted in hoary best-sellers like "Holy Blood, Holy Grail." This author gets the best of both worlds: simultaneously claiming that "it's just fiction," while introducing the novel with claims that the historical record contained within is "fact." That claim is ridiculous. To pluck a random example, he spends some time talking about the Council of Nicaea, and incorrectly summarizes it as the origin of the doctrine of Christ's divinity by Constantine. He ignores the Arian controversy out of which it arose, which is like trying to explain the Treaty of Versailles without mentioning World War I. He ignores the documented fact, agreed upon even by the cheerleaders of the gnostics that he is sympathetic to, that the earliest gnostic doctrines held that Christ was *purely* God, and not really man -- the very reverse of the doctrine that serves as the lynchpin of his novel's intellectual base (such as it is). This is a bad novel for weak or misinformed Christians, but anyone familiar with history should spot the train wreck of Brown's ideas a mile off.

Oh yes, and in Brown's world, Opus Dei has shadowy assassin "monks" (in real life, Opus Dei is not a monastic order -- there are no Opus Dei monks, let alone trained assassins), and the Catholic Church has been promulgating known lies as its central dogmas, promotes violence throughout the world, and has been retarding the progress of science and knowledge for 2 millennia. Brown leaves the reader with the impression that this, too, is a matter of settled historical record. Oh, but then again, it's just fiction. Except when it's not.

In general, if you're looking for a heady thriller wrapped around Christian arcana, We'd recommend Umberto Eco's excellent "Name of the Rose," not this dumbed down, by-the-numbers novel.

We Haven't Forgotten!

We'll have a few posts later tonight.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Don't Get Around Much Anymore

Sorry for the lack of activity on this blog. We'll be returning to post later this week.

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