Saturday, May 01, 2004

A Rerum Novarum Restoration Update:

To provide a brief update, the archives have been completed as of July 5, 2003 now. I have also begin sifting the old blog list that is still in the margin. I got it from a developmental weblog which had an older version of the template. Unfortunately, the older template which I added the webpost updates to predated mid 2003 so a lot of blogs added since that time are now not listed in my weblog margin. For those who were once linked to the side margin and now are not,{1} the omission is not intentional. I hope to restore all the blogs once linked to this site's margin within the coming week as well as update old links (such as the old Junkyard BLOG link) with the more up to date ones. It is a tedious process indeed but this time I am saving every adjustment to the private weblog so that future template losses (if there are any) can be corrected quickly.

At this rate, the blogs and the archives should be done within the week or at least the next ten days. At that point, the weblog will be updated -as I have not done any updates since early February 2004- and then I can focus on the other responses I promised to tend to before this entire fiasco occurred.


{1} With the exception of the weblog of a certain individual who has gone off the reservation in recent months.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Rerum Novarum Pays Tribute to Pat Tillman:

Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that upon other fields, on other days will bear the fruits of victory. [General Douglas MacArthur: Supreme Pacific Commander During WW II, Supreme Commander During Korea, West Point Graduate Class of 1903, and avid booster for Army's football team]

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived. [General George S. Patton: Leader of the Feared Third Army During WWII]

The poem I will use to commemorate Pat Tillman is one that I used to commemorate the untimely deaths of the Columbia astronauts back in February of 2003. For the current situation however, the death of Pat Tillman even more fits this poem since there is not only the sentiment directed towards one who has been cut down in the prime of their life but also because Pat was an athlete. He was a twenty-seven year old two hundred ten pound safety for the Arizona Cardinals. Despite being a standout college linebacker, he was drafted very low (seven spots from the bottom of the draft) and started his career on the bench with the Cardinals. (He was undersized for a linebacker.) Less than six months later, he was the starting free safety on defense and also doubling on special teams during kickoffs. (He went on to have the second most special teams tackles on the Cardinals that year.) In his second season, he was switched to strong safety and in his third season, he set the team record for tackles in a season. After that, he was gone from the NFL.

The same man who turned down a 9 million dollar five year contract with the St. Louis Rams to accept a three year 3.6 million contract with the team that drafted him after September 11th walked away from his football contract to enlist in the Army with his brother at $18,000 a year. He asked for no publicity on the part of his family. Much as he was an excellent player in college and a good student (3.84 GPA), he was an excellent player in the NFL. But far more important than all of that was his service on the battlefield where he stood out as well:

"He was an excellent soldier," Mussatti said of Tillman in an interview with the local Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer. "He was motivated. He had great leadership styles. He was definitely dedicated to everything he did -- and he didn't bring up his football career, ever." [Sgt. 1st Class Craig Mussatti, who guided Tillman through basic training after he enlisted in June 2002. (From an SI.Com Article A soldier's life)]

As I noted earlier, he made the decision to enlist in the military after September 11th. He trained as an Army Ranger and served in Afghanistan. His death last week at so young an age, in the prime of his life deserves mention because he was among the very best of us all: someone who valued sacrificing it all for others in a culture where such values are not well understood anymore. Simeon Rice (another NFL player) claimed that Tillman left the NFL for the Army because "he was not that good a player." Putting the statistics to confute that statement aside for a moment, I want to note that if the significance of Pat Tillman's actions are lost on him than Simeon Rice is an idiot. Feel free to quote me on that. While you are at it, also note that he is a egotistical primadonna who does not have his entire body the character Pat Tillman had in one hair follacle. Few people anymore have such stature.

I know that despite my own attempts to achieve it that I still fall noticably short of a Pat Tillman. It is not enough to standout in a culture where people are spineless and without conviction: indeed that is more an indictment of others than a praiseworthy trait on the part of such standouts. But people like Pat Tillman would stand out in any era. I tried to find pictures to post with this but none of the links worked. I therefore if anyone has a picture of Pat Tillman in an Arizona Cardinals uniform and also one of him in a military uniform that actually work to please send me the links. Otherwise, enough has been said by me now and time to close this post with the A E Housman poem now to commemorate Pat Tillman: an athlete who died young. Please remember him and his family in your prayers.

To An Athlete Dying Young:

THE time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's. [A.E. Housman]

Rest in Peace

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I hope to correct the blog list at Rerum Novarum sometime tomorrow -as well as work on a bit more of the archives. But at the moment a more important project to fill up my limited time has presented itself. See the next weblog entry for details on it.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004

On "Funks" and How to Avoid Them When Blogging:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

Hi Tim:

I have not had a chance to read your response to my last blog post to you (posted sometime during Lent). There appears to be something wrong with your blog archives that prevents me from accessing them. As far as the burnout on theological matters and apologetics that you noted, I am one to recommend widening the scope of your weblog musings. As you have probably noticed, theology (along with Church history and apologetics) only encompasses one facet of what I do here at Rerum Novarum. The primary reason for this is that I have a very broad base of subjects that I like to talk about. However, a strong secondary reason is that if too much time is spent on one subject matter (or one element of a subject matter), it has a way of wearing out even the most resolute of us.

As a veteran of countless message board formats (encompassing a diverse range of subject matters), the problem with all of them is that subjects outside of the "official subject matter" of the site is considered offlimits. Hence, on political message boards religious discussions are not well tolerated, likewise religious discussions on political message boards. Other formats such as sports message forums are even more restrictive than that.{1} Hence for many years I had to be dichotomistic in my approach depending on the particular message board I was on. And if there is one thing I do not like doing, it is being dichotomistic in how I approach discussing any subject.

Again, I recommend as a kind of remedy for your current funk to broaden the scope of Societas Christiana. There are a thousand subjects to talk about.{2} Is there any subjects out there that you really like discussing that you have not been allowed to on various message board forums??? Surely there has to be. I cannot imagine that you go through life with only three tracks on your conversational CD rack.{3} Even if you do not think others want to read about a particular subject, blog on it anyway. You will not know until you try it and even if it does not appear to generate much interest,{4} consider it the opportunity to muse on different subjects for the benefit of (i) broadening your paradigm and (ii) helping remove you from your current funk.

In closing, I am too busy to do that proposed dialogue at this time but in the next month would like to pursue it. In the interim though, please send me the link to your last response to me and consider the points elucidated in this post to you. These are just a few points to ponder and hopefuly you find within them something of value.


{1} I mention sports here as I am probably the only person in the history of the old CNN/SI message boards to bring up G K Chesterton and St. Thomas Aquinas on one of their discussion forums. (And for the most part it did not go over well unfortunately.)

{2} Such as political, social, philosophical, historical, theological, ecclesiological, soteriological, anthropological, scientific, literary, etc.

{3} Referring to the subjects of (i) the "reformation" (ii) epistemology and (iii) conciliarism.

{4} In case you are disposed to judge the popularity of a subject by the number of emails or comments box entries generated, it bears noting that comments boxes and email responses to particular posts are usually a very small percentage of readers. As I have noted before on this subject:

I do not know what subjects elicit the most readership and which do not and frankly, I have no interest in finding out. For the moment I do that is the moment my impulse to blog my mind becomes to some extent compromised.

All I will note in closing is that my position has not wavered and I believe the above approach is the best one to take with blogging if we are to avoid being typecast or otherwise caricatured by others.

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Briefly on David Palm's Novelty Article, Etc.

Though this was covered in the comments boxes on Mark Shea's weblog, it seems appropriate to reprise it here. After all, this exchange involves one of my writings that was the subject of a recent blogosphere discussion. This post is the three responses I made to David Palm in those message boxes -with some minor adjustments to that text. David's words will be in black font.

I freely admit that I am not qualified to deal with the liturgical and canonical disputes (plenty of people out there are: such as Pete Vere and Shawn McElhinney -- and the latter has replied to you at extreme length).

Actually, Shawn replied at extreme length to another David whom he mistook for me. But he has graciously and publicly apologized for the mistake, so this is no longer an issue. So far, Dave, nobody has relied to my most recent articles...

You are both right David. I responded to David Smith (whom I mistook for you) as you note. However, I also responded to your Remnant article as per your request to do so -and at far greater length than what I wrote to David Smith.{1} I should note to the readers that David handled that situation of mixed-up David's on my part with the kind of charity that the spiritual masters of our great tradition would recognize. And though I was planning to respond to his essay anyway -indeed my response was about 80% done when that situation came to light- I was considering abandoning the project due to the time required to adequately respond to all of David's points.

David's reaction towards my public mistake -which was rectified publicly as he noted- made me feel an obligation to finish the response to him. That is ironically perhaps the most significant reason that the piece was completed. Admittedly it still needs some minor HTML tweaking in spots -and a grammatical glitch or two corrected-{2} but the article was posted back on January 14th to Rerum Novarum. From there it was added to the scroll of links at that weblog on January 20th.{3} I was under the assumption that David got information on the previous weblog post (the one that was corrected) by reading my weblog so I posted almost all notifications about the writing to the same sources. I am surprised that it took this long for him to find out about it.

So far, Dave, nobody has relied to my most recent articles...I'd like to get some genuine critique of the arguments I present, on their merits.

I have not read the second piece yet but on the first article David, I deal with your entire essay. Here is the link that was supposed to go with the last post:

Miscellaneous Writings

The essay response to David is the second link from the top.

The definition of novelty which I proposed in the article is a change in doctrine or practice which suggests that the Catholic Tradition is wrong.

Examples of novelties in practice are the condemnation by Nicea II of any bishop who would consecrate a church without the use of relics or treating the vessels of Consecration as common cups and plates. Both actions, in their historical context, imply a defective faith.

In the time of the Iconoclastic heresy sure, this would be applicable. But if the Church later on decided to loose what she previously bound, then there would be no defective faith involved. I am not saying that Vatican II did this mind you, only that there is a huge difference between a novelty sanctioned by ecclesiastical authority (such as those I listed) and those which are not (as you noted with the two above).

This is why the long lists of changes that Shawn cites in his reply are not ad rem.

Aah but David, your article was a sweeping condemnation of novelty. Much as with any universal negative, it only involves an example or two to confute. In that case, I took two minutes or so and made a list of about four dozen examples that came immediately to mind. For the sake of uniformity, I only used about forty of them in the essay.

But that list in the essay is not the most prevalent argument against your theory. Instead, the examination of the context of all the sources you cited that I could verify -which was most of them- is the strongest argument in my favour. But I digress.

One need only ask of each of those changes whether there was any opposition at all and if there was, which side were the heretics on? In each of the examples he gave, the change was either uncontroversial (its harmony with the Faith being obvious) or the Church instituted the change *against the desires and beliefs of heretics*.

St. Charles Borromeo was vehemently opposed to Quo Primum. I do not like where that places his orthodoxy according to your criteria. Other examples could be given but that one alone is problematical for your attempt at a clear-cut distinction viz. what changes the Church made or did not make. There is also the fact that *sometimes* heretics are right!!! And that opposing them when they are possibly right does not do the Church any justice at all.

Once again, the argument is most emphatically *not* against change qua change. It is against novelties, as defined above. Omar Gutierrez, to whom I was responding in my article, claimed that the Fathers only spoke of novelties in terms of doctrines. I believe I demonstrated (and even Shawn seems to agree with me) that the term can also be used to refer to changes in practice.

Yes, I did agree with you on that point in abstract principle but not in your application of the concept.

Thus, I use the phrase "practical novelties" to distinguish from "doctrinal novelties" because those are the distinctions being made in the present discussion.

I have no problem with this kind of distinction being made. It is akin to making a distinction between other words with differing meanings such as capitalizing Tradition in some contexts and not doing so in others.

Now remember that I agreed with Gutierrez's definition of novelties as those changes which suggest that the Tradition is wrong.

This is a very loaded definition on Omar's part.

My departure from him was to argue that, "even in the sphere of Church practice and custom, as also in doctrinal matters, it is precisely those changes which 'suggest that the Tradition is wrong' that represent harmful novelties."

And of course this definition itself would be well assisted if it was quantified a bit. For how do we know which changes "suggest that the Tradition is wrong" David??? When you claim that of those changes I noted in the essay that the change was either uncontroversial (its harmony with the Faith being obvious), you beg the question. What appears "obvious" to the retrospective eyes of a reasonably intelligent, literate, and educated individual such as yourself is not necessarily so "obvious" to illiterate and ignorant peasants contemporary to the time of the various changes made.

Attempts to deal with these dynamics such as yours (and Fr. Chad Ripperger's theory on "extrinsic tradition"{4}) tend to be rather selective in their acceptance of what Church history tells us. But as this point is one I have noted more than once in web writings, I will not belabour it again here but instead refer people to those writings{5} if they are interested.


{1} As is my wont with longer writings, it is on multiple urls though so do not fret about the volume issue.

{2} Which will be tended to hopefully before summertime.

{3} When it was also posted to The Lidless Eye.

{4} Responded to in an essay by yours truly about three years ago.

{5} Many of those writings were either referred to within (or were sources used in) my essay response to David on the question of novelty.

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