Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Now that you know where I am coming from, let me also say that I don't understand a lot about modern economics. I have read a lot on economy, but the modern maze of financial terms and realities on Wall Street confuses the heck out of me, as it does to many! I heard an interview recently in which one professional financial analyst confessed that even many in the financial business are confused about what a lot of these things are. Why should something so important be so freakin' difficult to understand or make sense of?
1) A repressive, ultra-authoritarian, surveillance society as described by Orwell in 1984, in which technology is put to use to dull our pleasures and make us slaves in the truest sense.
2) An excessively recreation-luxury focused society in which pop-culture is the only culture and technology is put to use to bury us in an ocean of pleasurable distractions, as described by Huxley in Brave New World.
This situation cannot prevail ultimately: the Church will always exist, dissent (the good kind) will always exist, and men will always be there with the courage to think freely. One disheartening thing about modernity is the way it crushes the individual, the way it makes us all feel so helpless against "forces" (i.e., results of evil choices) beyond our control. This is what is so romantic about the Middle Ages or the classical age: back then, you knew who your enemy was, and if he was threatening you, you could arm up, face him in combat and hurl a spear at him. How I wish to God that the answer was as simple as facing our corrupt financial system and hurling a spear at it with the fury of Achilles.
I think we are done. What do I mean by done? I mean done. Done as Rome was in 476. Done as Athens was after the Athenian defeat in Sicily. Done as Israel was when Nebuchadnezzar came knocking. At least done insofar as the present form of our society is concerned. Why did it have to happen during my life? Part of me is happy (as Athanasius says, "the anarchist in me"), but it is not pleasing to pay so much for gas, watch food prices go up, wonder whether or not I'll be able to get a student loan next semester, and meanwhile have nothing in my savings: not because I blow my money on junk, God knows I don't! But because just the cost of paying my mortgage, bills and gas alone is 99% of my income.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
About a year ago, I came across the Animusic DVD's and I think they are one of the greatest video purchases I have ever made. Animusic is a style of animated music: unlike other attempts at making solely musical pictures (like Fantasia), Animusic is coordinated so that every single sound you hear is produced by something on the screen-and every movement likewise produces a sound. Here's an example called "Pipe Dream" from the Animusic 2 DVD:
Besides being thorougly entertaining (I can watch a whole 55 minutes DVD of this stuff straight through), my kids love to watch it as well. I can put this on and my kids will become engrossed in it, and I don't have to worry about what they are watching. This is one of their favorite videos and they often beg me to be allowed to watch it.
Here's another one called "Starship Groove":
Now finally, my favorite, "Pogo Sticks," from Animusic 2 (my kids love to imitate these pogo sticks and hop-around while this one is playing):
Each DVD comes with about eight or ten of these on them. I'll probably get some angry comments from people who dislike any music at all after the Baroque period, but I say that this stuff is really cool (from a musical and animation standpoint) and my kids and I get a lot of enjoyment from watching these videos. I don't have any stock in Animusic or anything; I just think it's cool and I feel good letting my kids get into it. Here is Animusic's website if you are interested in learning more.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
"How do you respond to the claim that you cannot complain about the actions of the elected government if you did not vote? It makes a bit of sense to me."
Think of it this way: If there are two candidates, only one can win. What about the minority whose candidate lost? Can they not complain? After all, technically, they had nothing to do with electing the person in power since they voted for somebody else, yet nobody suggests that people who voted for a losing candidate cannot complain...in fact, it is commonly accepted that they have even more cause to complain because their complaints then have an added "See, I told you so" strength to them. Granted, this does not really prove why people who do not vote have a positive right to complain, though it does show that the argument that they can't complain is illogical.
Well, anybody has the right to complain about anything anytime they please-that's one of our First Amendment rights, and actually, the right to criticize the government was closer to what the Founder had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment (as opposed to those who interpret it to justify smut and filth).
All of these rights can be exercised apart from the right to vote. A person could still do all of these things and not vote, as I know many Catholics do. In fact, I'd say a person who does all of these things but refrains from voting participates in government much more than a person who only votes and doesn't do anything else mentioned above. Therefore, the idea that voting alone constitutes participation is fatally flawed. It may be important, but it is not the only thing.
"If voters should be competent, what criteria you would propose to determine voter competence? Suppose, for example, only citizens who have completed post-graduate studies were allowed to vote. I think the outcome of the upcoming presidential election would be quite clear in that case. And if that is not a good criterion, would you instead require a minimum income?"
Designing ideal political systems is a venerable and ancient tradition in Western Culture.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I arrived only little more than a week ago, but have already participated in an anti-homosexual [fake]marriage demonstration in front of the Parliament building in Vienna. By the grace of God, an attempt to legalize the same was thwarted last year partly through popular resistance.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
1) How can the Church claim to be holy and a protector of truth when there are things in her history like the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution of Jews and the Galileo case?2) The Church is a source and means of holiness for people because God has made it so. The failures of the Church's members during her history are lamentable. The virtuous lives of the saints validate the truth and power of the Church's sacraments and teaching.3) Though the members of the Church are prone to sin, the Church herself is sinless and holy.4) Despite the sins of her members, including the ordained, the Church is entrusted by God with the truth of the Gospel and the graced means of salvation.5) Many members of the Church are also holy and possess a heroic sanctity witnessed to by the countless sacrifices many have made, often to the point of martyrdom.6) Pope John Paul II, on various occasions, apologized for the sins of the members of the Church in her history, including harm caused by the excesses of the Inquisition and atrocities committed during the Crusades.7) The historical context in which these events happened: the people of those days dealt differently with threats and problems than we might do so now. They used means that were commonly used in their society then. We cannot judge them as harshly as some people judge them today.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Watching the political hype unfold this summer has convinced me of the reality of something that I have long felt to be true: that we are witnessing the end of the American political tradition as we know it. "But what do you mean, Boniface? We've got politicians left and right! We've got political channels, political pundits, politics up the wazoo. How can you say this is the end of politics?"
Well, it may not be the end of corruption, or the end of manipulation of consciences, or the end of pandering and demagoguery or vain imaginings and empty promises. But it is the end of politics. Perhaps it has been this way for so long that we have inherently associated politics itself with all of these dirty things listed above, but politics and slime are not inherently linked, though they are often found together (at least in democracies!).
I think we need to go back to Aristotle, and remember that "the state or political community, which is the highest of all [communities], and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good" (Pol. 1.1). As a Catholic, I would take issue with his assertion that the political community is capable of attaining the highest good, but he brings up a point that is often forgotten: on the natural level, it is in the fair exercise of politics that mankind most gloriously shows forth the virtue, excellence and wisdom that man is capable of. It is one thing to be just and wise, but to diffuse justice and widsom throughout the entire body politic is something marvellous, and something which has never quite been done, though men from Plato to St. Thomas More ruminated upon it. But the essence of what I am getting at is that, abstractly speaking, politics is good and a forum for men to act with virtue and excellence.
Okay, stop laughing now. You have to admit that it is true in the abstract at least. Governments have the greatest tendency to go corrupt in democracies, because there is the greatest amount of people involved, all of whom are sinful (as all men are). Also, because strength lies in numbers and votes rather than in the resoluteness of one man's will, democracy is more given to being corrupted by persuasive demagogues than, say, monarchy.
But, when democracy works right and when men are righteous, then it works fairly well. Here is a concept that people these days have lost or forgotten about democracy: the power really is with the people. Most people today participate only in national elections, when the local city council is a lot more influential in the situations that will affect their day to day lives. The school board, the city council, the state representatives and the local judiciary are all touch the voter a lot more closely than the senatorial or presidential races. Yet who knows who their district judge is? Who votes and does research on school board elections, whether the candidates are pro-gay or not? Who turns out to vote for city councilmen, even though they decide whether the field behind your house stays a field or becomes a Wal-Greens?
People in the old days understood this, and if you are a student of American history, you will know that the president used to be a rather weak figure in American politics. There were decades when senators and state representatives were much more powerful men than the president, and the citizenry knew this. People flooded town hall meetings to hear local men (people whom they knew intimately) to debate the running of the city, and politics was seen to be primarily local and only national secondarily. "Writing your congressman" was a much more effective means of getting involved in government, and a political party's convention was truly a platform to decide who was going to be nominated for an office, not just a rubber-stamping of a predetermined candidate who was media savvy. Indeed, before television and radio, what a candidate sounded like or how he carried himself was much less important than his policies and his ideas for leadership.
But nowadays, people rarely get involved locally, and this is manifested by an absurd confidence in national political figures, especially our presidential candidates. The first rule of advertising is not to promise what you can't deliver. Yet what kind of stuff are these candidates saying? They are going to fix health care, clean up corruption, take on the oil companies, make sure no hurricanes ever destroy a city again, win the war in Iraq, fix our entire public education system, pay off the national debt, strengthen the economy, bring gas prices down, stop the mortgage crisis, fix social security and make us popular again. And how, pray tell, are they going to do all this?
What!? I believe a candidate should be inspirational, as long as they also have something substantive to say! These problems with our nation took decades to emerge and are the results of the efforts (and blunders) of thousands of people! One person can't fix them! Obama can't fix the economy, let alone do it with "change." Same goes for McCain. "Experience" won't fix anything. Deomcracies, at the end of the day, are governed bottom up, and that is the only way anything can really change.
The fact that so many people are placing all of their hopes in solitary humans to fix these tremendous problems shows me that people have (a) no understanding of how the democratic process really works, and (b) if they do understand it, they have lost faith in it. It reminds me of the late Roman Republic, where people stopped going through the consuls and assemblies to get things done and instead put blind, implicit faith in a few extraordinarily powerful individuals (who acted above the law) and promised to make all their dreams come true.
Well, whatever. I'm surprised at the amount of people on the poll who voted to just chuck the whole system and set up a monarchy, but monarchies have a lot better historical track-record than democracies do. Political historians from Polybius to Aristotle on down have recognized that democracies are a rare phenomemon that only pop up at certain specific times in history, but that they are soon corrupted and thing dissolve back into monarchy or totalitarianism. I think we are well nigh to that point, if we haven't irrevocably passed it already.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
The letter signed by the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato, states the following:
“Within the context of the phenomenon Medjugorje, this Dicastery is studying the case of Father Tomislav VLASIC OFM, originally from that region and the founder of the association ‘Kraljice mira potpuno Tvoji – po Mariji k Isusu’ (Queen of Peace, Totally Yours-Through Mary to Jesus).
On 25 January 2008, through a properly issued Decree, this Dicastery imposed severe cautionary and disciplinary measures on Fr. Vlasic.
The non-groundless news that reached this Congregation reveals that the religious priest in question did not respond, even partially, to the demands of ecclesiastical obedience required by the very delicate situation he finds himself in, justifying himself by citing his zealous activity in the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno and surrounding territories, in initiating religious activities, buildings, etc.
Since Fr. Vlasic has fallen into a censure of interdict latae sententiae reserved to this Dicastery, I kindly ask Your Excellency, for the good of the faithful, to inform the community of the canonical status of Fr. Vlasic and at the same time to report on the situation in question…”.
This regards the fact that the same Congregation of the Holy See applied ecclesiastical sanctions against Rev. Father Tomislav Vlašić, through a Decree of the Congregation (prot. 144/1985) of 25 January 2008, signed by Cardinal William Levada, Prefect, and by Archbishop Angelo Amato, Secretary of the Congregation along with the “Concordat cum originali” of 30 January 2008, verified by Msgr. John Kennedy, Official of the Congregation.
The Decree was handed over to Rev. Fr. Tomislav Vlašić in the General Curia of the OFM in Rome on 16 February 2008 and the notification was co-signed by the Minister General of the Franciscan Minor Order, Father José R. Carballo, the Ordinary of Fr. Vlašić.
3. Any actions involving juridical contracts and administrative organizations, whether canonical or civil, effected without the written permission ad actum of the Minister General of the Order and under his responsibility are prohibited;
4. A mandatory course of theological-spiritual formation, with a final evaluation along with a prior recognitio of this Congregation, and a solemn professio fidei;
All the priests, religious and faithful in the Dioceses of Mostar-Duvno and Trebnje-Mrkan, as well as all those concerned “in the pertinent territories”, are hereby informed on the current canonical status of Rev. Father Tomislav Vlašić.
+ Ratko Perić, Bishop