Friday, August 16, 2013

Commonweal on Obama's "War on Religion."

U of C law prof Eduardo Moisés Peñalver has a post at dotCommonweal arguing that: since the Justice Dept. filed an amicus curiae against restricting prayer in a legislature, then any suggestion that Obama opposes religious liberty must be ridiculous.

It has several problems.

First is the (scare-)quoted term "War on Religion." I'm a pretty avid reader of conservative punditry, yet I don't believe I have ever heard this term used, before reading it today in Commonweal. Peñalver uses quotation marks, but does not attribute the term to any specific source. I suppose this is an example of the progressivist fondness for scare quotes. The Chicago Manual of Style has the following to say about scare quotes (§7.58):
Quotation marks are often used to alert readers that a term is used in a nonstandard, ironic, or other special sense [...] They imply "This is not my term" or "This is not how the term is usually applied." Like any such device, scare quotes lose their force and irritate readers if overused.
Peñalver suggests that conservatives delusionally believe Obama is waging a war on religion, yet it is Peñalver who exhibits signs of delusion, precisely in so suggesting. Perhaps he had in mind the "war on women," another war which exists exclusively in the feverish minds of political pundits and speech writers.

Second, Peñalver misuses the term double bluff. For reference, a double bluff is defined as "an action which is intended to be perceived as a bluff, but which is not." An amicus curiae cannot be a bluff, therefore it is nonsensical to imagine, even ironically, that it is a double bluff. It is a brief that is filed, and once filed it's clear that no bluffing is involved, as any action which might be threatened in a bluff has already occurred. I will assume the reader is cognizant of what a bluff is.

Stylistic and dictional questions aside, the point of the post is to emphatically dismiss any idea that Obama would be so shrewd and coldly calculating (paranoid, even) as to now and again support religious liberty, so that he doesn't go too far in showing his true intent, which is (supposedly) to destroy it. But is that really such an unbelievable idea? Let's say someone wanted to get away with something people might not like. Say, embezzling money from his employer. If this criminal took all the money quickly, of course the employer would notice and he'd probably get caught. It would be smarter to take just enough so that the employer or owner doesn't notice. "Oh, that must be just an accounting error. No one would steal from me. You're all honest folk, aren't ya?" And so it is with those who earnestly wish that Obama cared about the things they care about.

Does Obama care about religious liberty? Sure, if you're a (preferably foreign) Muslim. "The future," Barack Hussein read proudly from his teleprompter, "must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam." Oh, sure, he mentioned something about Jesus and the Holocaust, but quickly followed that up with more support for Islam. This is his reaction to the murder of his ambassadors by the followers of the Prophet of Islam. It's hard to read it is anything other than support of them, and this impression is reinforced by his support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Does Obama care about religious liberty for American Christians and Jews? Well, they tend to vote Republican, so what do you think?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mozart Festival, Woodstock, Illinois.

I went last weekend, and recommend it. Nazar Dzhuryn, soloist for Haydn's Cello Concerto №1, gave an intense, impressive performance. I had heard that piece several times before, but never noticed the depth of the cello solo.

There was also a saxophone soloist. There was actually only one Mozart piece, and some of the program sounded modern, such as the saxophone pieces. But it was a jazzy, witty modern, rather than an attempt at avant-garde.

The venue is a charming, intimate 19th c. opera house, on the town square. We had seats toward the bottom of the balcony, and I would recommend the lower balcony over the main floor seats (which are more expensive). Despite the lower price, the balcony provides an excellent view of the entire orchestra. Whereas, from what I could tell, people sitting in the main section could only see the musicians in the front.

There is one more weekend, Aug. 10-11. Recommended if you want to get out of Chicago for a day trip or weekend.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Late summer.

Sir Edward Elgar's Opus 37 , "Sea Pictures". Dame Janet Baker / London  Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Vernon Handley.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Peter Berger on Pope Francis at The American Interest.

Someone named Peter Berger shared his opinions on Pope Francis. I'm not sure if this is the Austrian sociologist, but, given that The American Interest, to judge by its name, appears to be a magazine of the neo-conservative variety, I suppose it probably isn't. Although, there is a certain predilection to sociological modes of thinking on display in the article.

I suppose Berger thought he was being pretty clever with this line:
I will try not to annoy Catholic readers of my blog by commenting on the thunderous improbability that Jesus ever spoke these words, intended to establish a “church”, and put the later bishop of Rome in charge.
Let's see if we can untangle that rats' nest of a sentence.
  1. The cuteness of the praeteritio‎. It's generally better to leave to praeteritio‎ things that are more or less obvious but for reasons of social niceties one pretends not to mention. It doesn't really work with things that are definitely in question.
  2. Why is it thunderously improbable that Jesus spoke those words? Without any evidence to the contrary, it would seem more probable that words ascribed to Jesus by ancient sources were spoken by him, than not. It appears Berger doesn't agree with the words – that, however, does not make them less probable.
  3. Why is the word church in quotation marks? I suppose this is intended to indicate that the idea of what constitutes a church is questionable, or ill-defined, perhaps. What is a "church," anyway? Well, it seems clear that Jesus did, in fact, establish a church, as evidenced by the New Testament epistles addressed to various churches (or "churches").
  4. "and put the later bishop of Rome in charge" – I don't believe that it is accepted Catholic doctrine that Jesus personally put in charge this or that bishop. But if Berger believes that Jesus didn't want anyone, at all, in charge of anything, then he would need to provide some evidence for that supposition before I would be interested in accepting it.
The rest of the article suggests that because PP. Francis granted indulgences for Twitter followers, then he is therefore a postmodernist. But didn't St. Gertrude the Great compose the prayer:
Eternal Father, I offer You the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen. (my emphasis)
So it would seem that it is not postmodernist, nor even modernist, to say that we might be united to our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. PP. Francis is not saying that we are united through virtual reality, rather than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My blog, Aug. 1, feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop & Doctor of the Church.

The story on Laudate about St. Alphonsus Liguori remarks:
His work needs to be better known today, when there seems to be no rational middle course between puritanism and permissiveness.
That seems true enough. For a while I thought I should write down some of my thoughts on various topics. Log them, if you will. On the web. So, here they are. If you care to know something about me, I am currently a master's student studying computer science. I have a bachelor's degree in philosophy. I live in Chicago; I have lived in the Midwestern United States most of my life. I'm a Roman Catholic.