Friday, July 31, 2009

Auguste Comte

Comte envisioned a progression of three stages of history—from the theological to the metaphysical to the scientific. He left little doubt that these transitions were more or less inevitable and certainly the story of progress. --Richard John Neuhaus, Secularizations, First Things, February 2009

Briggs CEO Shiely to retire

Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that John S. Shiely will retire at year's end as head of small-engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton. He recounts how difficult it has been to keep producing engines here in the Milwaukee area.

One part of the difficulty is a local culture of hostility to business. He described this at some length in an op-ed in January 2008, Somehow, we have to put an end to Milwaukee's zero-sum culture.

In the op-ed, he mentions the involvement of local religious leaders in the anti-Briggs & Stratton campaign of the 1990s. Back in 2002 he described a less visible part of that campaign in a piece in The Wall Street Journal, Weakland's Strong Hand: My encounter with the former archbishop and his tactics.


Thursday, July 30, 2009


Mathematics does seem to evoke a feeling of timelessness and certainty. We may not formulate geometry exactly as Euclid did, but none of Euclid’s theorems is now considered false. The proofs given by Apollonius and Archimedes still work as proofs for us, and the theorems they prove are, we say, true, not just agreed upon or universally accepted. --Fernando Q. Gouvea, The Book of Numbers, First Things, February 2009, review of Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio

From Trigonometry to Square One

Andrew Sullivan, Forensic Gynecologist, opens a second file.
It is not my job as a journalist or yours as a citizen to take public officials on trust. They are not to be trusted, whoever they are. It is our job to demand all the evidence we want or need. I know the electronic record is legit. I have no doubt that Obama has every constitutional right to be president. I think the Birthers are nuts. But there is no reason on earth that the original [vital records] cannot be retrieved and shown.

(via Tom Maguire at Just One Minute)

Bad Vestments

Examples collected by Christopher Johnson

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Alfred North Whitehead

[In Principia Mathematica] Russell and Whitehead suggested no new numbers or arithmetical rules, but they did try to show how the simplest numbers—integers—could be built using the principles of logic. But the methods they proposed for even the simplest sums were desperately cumbersome. And for the proof that 1+1=2, readers had to wait until volume II, page 83. --The Economist, When 1, 2, 3... is not enough: Arguments over what counts as a number, December 30, 2008

Logicism posits that the vast edifice of mathematics is nothing but a working out of logic, of the rules of reasoning. This was Bertrand Russell’s view, famously worked out with Alfred North Whitehead in Principia Mathematica. Most mathematicians and most philosophers of mathematics found the book unreadable and the argument unpersuasive. --Fernando Q. Gouvea, The Book of Numbers, First Things, February 2009, review of Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio

Parish Council Officers’ Training

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee Coordinator for the Office for Parish Mission will conduct a 90 minute session to
- review council officers’ responsibilities and resources
- answer questions and
- organize a council calendar for the coming year

As a former council member and officer, I also suggest this article, These Time-Management Issues Will Be Easily Resolved With A Series Of Streamlined Meetings, by Cole E. Perthkey, The Onion, December 5, 2007

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Walter Bagehot

although its self-marketing subtly sells a kind of sleek, mid-last-century Concorde-flying sangfroid, The Economist has reached its current level of influence and importance because it is, in every sense of the word, a true global digest for an age when the amount of undigested, undigestible information online continues to metastasize. --Michael Hirschorn, The Newsweekly’s Last Stand: Why The Economist is thriving while Time and Newsweek fade, The Atlantic, July/August 2009 (via Arts & Letters Daily)

[Roger] Kimball says he would be quoted more if people were not afraid of mispronouncing the name--it is Ba'-jet. --Richard John Neuhaus,, While We're At It, The Public Square, First Things, February 2003

Monday, July 27, 2009


as for the future, these many new works -- predicated as they are of course upon Solon's inherent interest and importance for all aspects of archaic poetics and politics -- will no doubt guarantee and enable future research on the great political poet. --Elizabeth Irwin review of Solons Politische Elegien und Iamben, by C. Mulke, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, May 26, 2005

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reading Rat Fourth Sunday

Updates to posts on my recommended reading...

Art and Literature

The Economist on Alice Munro

Pat Rogers on Samuel Johnson

Jessica Ferri on Flannery O'Connor

Society and History

Andrew Norton on On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

The Economist on Abraham Lincoln

On the recommended reading list itself, I've continued adding comments from The Harvard guide to influential books: 113 distinguished Harvard professors discuss the books that have helped to shape their thinking (1986), edited by C. Maury Devine, Kim D. Parrish, and Claudia Dissell

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Donald Hall

Could anyone who eagerly read Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina at 12 not end up a writer? --Peter Stevenson, Intimacy and Solitude, The New York Times, November 7, 2008, review of Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry, by Donald Hall

Donald Hall, in conversation with Judith Moore, San Diego Reader (1998), at Poetry Daily

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Upanishads

In fact, most Indians in the 18th century knew no Sanskrit, the language exclusive to Brahmins. For centuries, they remained unaware of the hymns of the four Vedas or the idealist monism of the Upanishads that the German Romantics, American Transcendentalists and other early Indophiles solemnly supposed to be the very essence of Indian civilization. --Pankaj Mishra, Another Incarnation, The New York Times, April 24, 2009, review of The Hindus: An Alternative History, by Wendy Doniger

Irreconcilable Differences—So?

It didn't take long into my marriage to discover how incompatible my wife and I were. ...

But surely after 30 years of marriage, things have gotten better, no? ...

Mark Galli, Christianity Today, September 2008 (via Pertinacious Papist)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Arthur Conan Doyle

Among the problems Bayard highlights are: Why did the hound leave no marks on the first corpse, that of Sir Charles Baskerville? When Selden, the convict, dies wearing the clothes of Sir Henry Baskerville, the hound is never actually seen, so why assume that it was responsible? It does attack Sir Henry near the end, but only after a shot has wounded it first. --David Loftus, California Literary Review, December 7, 2008, review of Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles, by Pierre Bayard (via Milt's File)

Review by John Carey of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes edited by Leslie S Klinger, Sunday Times, December 12, 2004

A four-pipe poseur, review by Alfred Hickling of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, edited by Leslie S Klinger, Guardian, December 4, 2004

Zelig on Baker Street, by Laura Miller, New York Times, October 10, 2004

The Swinging Detective, by Laura Miller, New York Times, January 25, 2004

Chemists honour Sherlock Holmes: Super-sleuth Sherlock solved crimes with forensic chemistry, by Christine McGourty, BBC News, October 16, 2002

The Gullibility of Conan Doyle, by William Harwood, Skeptical Inquirer, March/April 2002

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Ratnavali, in being written by an emperor and by borrowing the plot of Bhasa’s The Dream of Vasavadatta (which predates Ratnavali by hundreds of years), provides both a comparison of time periods several hundreds of years apart and a glance at the perspective of a ruler during one specific time and culture. --David Merriman, India's Ratnavali as a Historical Source: Remembering Context and Purpose when Evaluating an Ancient Work, Associated Content, June 2, 2006

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Robert Lowell

When Lowell wrote to Bishop he was, for once, not involved in an act of performance. When Bishop wrote to Lowell she knew that she was reading his poems more deeply, and with more responsible attention, than any other friend would ever dare to do. --The Economist, Serious engagement, November 20, 2008, review of Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, edited by Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton

Their surviving 459 letters, some surprisingly long (Bishop might elaborate hers over weeks, at times swearing she had written Lowell in her imagination), give us the closest view of these wounded creatures — his muscular, bull-in-a-china-shop intellect; her pained shyness and abject modesty, and a gaze like the gleam off a knife. --William Logan, ‘I Write Entirely for You’, The New York Times, October 31, 2008, review of Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, edited by Thomas Travisano with Saskia Hamilton

Dear Elizabeth, by Robert Lowell: One poet writes to another, The New Yorker, December 20 and 27, 2004

His Own Prophet, review by Michael Hofmann of Collected Poems by Robert Lowell, edited by Frank Bidart and David Gewanter, London Review of Books, September 11, 2003

The achievement of Robert Lowell, by Richard Tillinghast, The New Criterion, January 2003

Monday, July 20, 2009

Seamus Heaney

He speaks of what a poem does for its author, restoring something to the self. Good poems are not willed into being but come from things remembered with a certain aura. --The Economist, Glimpse into a poet's mind, December 11, 2008, review of Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney, by Dennis O’Driscoll

Seamus Heaney’s 'middle voice', by Richard Tillinghast, on the poetry of Seamus Heaney on the occasion of his winning the Nobel Prize, The New Criterion, December 1995

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1995


William L. Portier reviews Archbishop Weakland's memoirs in the July 17, 2009 issue of Commonweal
Frustrated by the Vatican’s refusal to connect celibacy and the priest shortage, he sent Rome the draft of a pastoral letter proposing, in the absence of other suitable candidates, to present married men to Rome as candidates for ordination. He had to agree when the Vatican secretary of state called this a “sort of provocation.”

Meaning had to agree now, not at the time or in the intervening eighteen years. His April 24, 1991 letter to Cardinal Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, denying what he now admits, is in Paul Wilkes The Education of an Archbishop (1992), pp. 145-147.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lunar Communion

On Sunday, July 19, 2009 at the 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. services, Webster Presbyterian Church holds this year's commemoration of the first manned lunar landing.
Buzz Aldrin, the LM [Lunar Module] pilot and a ruling elder of Webster Presbyterian Church at the time, requested a few moments of silence during which he invited all who were listening to reflect on the significance of the lunar landing and to give thanks in his or her own way. For Buzz Aldrin, his act of thanksgiving was to celebrate Holy Communion on the surface of the moon as an extension of the Webster congregation, with the chalice and communion elements given to him by the church before he left Earth.

(via The Deacon's Bench)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Reading Rat Third Sunday

Updates to posts on my recommended reading...

Art and Literature

Howard Frazier on Antigone by Sophocles

Joseph Bottum on Emile M. Cioran

Zeph Stewart on The Iliad by Homer

Christopher Ricks on the life and death of John Keats

Society and History

Hale Champion on The Federalist

The Economist on the death of Abraham Lincoln

Liam Julian on essays of George Orwell

Ralph C. Wood on the politics of G. K. Chesterton

Philosophy and Religion

Robert Nozick on The Republic by Plato

Mark Moore on Politics by Aristotle

Judith Shklar on Confessions by Augustine

On the recommended reading list itself, I've continued adding comments from The Harvard guide to influential books: 113 distinguished Harvard professors discuss the books that have helped to shape their thinking (1986), edited by C. Maury Devine, Kim D. Parrish, and Claudia Dissell

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sunday Mass: What People Want

While Bishop of Youngstown, Thomas Tobin wrote this column about attending Sunday Mass "undercover" on vacation.
Whenever I join the rank-and-file, it’s amazing how quickly I assume the characteristics of what might be considered the “typical Catholic.” I planned my schedule so I wouldn’t arrive at church too early. I sat toward the back of the church to avoid special involvement. I complained, at least mentally, about the length of the sermon. I was dismayed to learn there would be a second collection —- and yes, I did pry open my wallet to contribute to both! And I was appropriately irritated by the log jam of traffic in the parking lot after Mass.

Forget my need for “full, active and conscious participation.” I was on vacation. I wanted something short, sweet and to the point, just enough to fulfill my Sunday obligation.

"Without a Doubt" column, Catholic Exponent, September 1, 2000 (via Cathleen Kaveny at dotCommonweal)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

John Keats

...Keats's friends and his doctors, all of them, clung to the belief that it was not his lungs but his stomach or his mind that was at the root of his illness, and that this belief was clung to even by Keats himself, against his better knowledge of how much worse his condition was, how fatal. --Christopher Ricks, Keats's Afterlife, The Washington Post, July 3, 2009, review of Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography, by Stanley Plumly, at Review-a-Day

Keats wrote not only superb poems but also wonderful, witty, revealing letters, out of which the poetry sometimes arises like a spontaneous growth. He considered and anatomised the nature of his art all through his brief career. --The Economist, Through death to life, August 21, 2008, review of Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography, by Stanley Plumly

Keats's Afterlife, by Christopher Ricks, The New York Review of Books, June 11, 2009, review of Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography, by Stanley Plumly

The Eve of St. Agnes—Green Bay, 2008: John Keats for Today’s Reader. Posted by Avery Cardinal Dulles on January 28, 2008, 2:22 PM, First Things

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Willa Cather

As a young girl, Cather enjoyed listening to older people tell stories about their lives and experiences, and much of her writing evokes the sense of a finer, brighter world that has passed or is passing amidst a newer, often shabbier one. --Carol Iannone, Willa Cather’s New York, Modern Age, Spring 2000, First Principles, September 10, 2008

Pipe down back there! review by Terry Castle of Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism by Joan Acocella, London Review of Books, December 14, 2000

Willa Cather’s 'The Professors House', by Donald Lyons, The New Criterion, January 2000

From donut to turnover

Our pastor writes in his column in the July 12, 2009 St. Al's bulletin about an article he read on why there is such a high rate of turnover among clergy. This turns out to be about all the other people that individual clergy blame.

First, they blame lack of support from denominational leadership.
There was a sense that parish ministry was somehow less appreciated and held in less esteem as compared to “specialized” ministry.

In the secular world, we sometimes refer to this sense as "envy".
Some felt that the leadership simply saw parish pastors not as uniquely gifted persons but as someone who could “fill” a slot.

I came away with the impression that everyone involved pretty much sees things that way when I sat in on the Parish Council Pastor Replacement Consultation. As have others.

Having blamed those above, we now turn to how clergy blame those below, the members of the congregation.

Though clergy want to be regarded as "uniquely gifted persons", the first complaint is that congregations expect too much.
Some congregations expected the pastor to be available anytime for almost any reason.

For example, because you're dying.

The next complaint, for married clergy, is the congregation's expectations of their spouses and children.
The expectation existed that the pastor’s spouse was to be part of the “deal,” like a two-for-one package, and there was congregational resentment when the pastor’s spouse or children did not live up to this. Also, family stress was reported because congregations were critical of the spouse’s personality or even family dynamics.

Despite everything he just said, our pastor concludes this point by saying,
One must wonder how many do not become Catholic priests because of current restrictions as to whom can be ordained.

The next complaint is characterized as "entrenched vision", described as
a “collision” between a pastor’s hope and vision to move a congregation and some members who follow the “we have always done it this way” vision.

Sometimes it might be some variation on the "after you're gone we're the ones still here paying the mortgage" vision.
In many congregations, there seem to be a group of “good old boys or girls” who have the “levers of power” and hinder or even dash the majority of members hopes and dreams. Pastors often feel caught in the middle.

It's almost as if people expect the pastor to build support for a course of action.
They also report that there are some in the congregations who view themselves as the “guardians of orthodoxy” and often send incomplete or even false reports to the leadership.

On the other hand, I've seen and heard of pastors giving parishioners a world-class jerking around to try to manipulate outcomes and suppress questions.

Finally clergy complain of petty the congregation.
This seemed to stand out as the main reason for leaving ministry. This was experienced when members of a congregation considered themselves more like members of a “Christian country club” rather than a parish committed to the Gospel mission. Some members would often say things like, “If you do not do this or that, I am going to leave the church and take my money with me.”

On the other hand, I've gotten an email from a pastor saying that if the Archbishop doesn't like the way he does things, he can have the keys to the place.
Others felt a sense of entitlement to sit in a certain pew or sing at a certain time or sing a certain song or lead a certain group within the church or demand to be scheduled for lay ministry on their own terms regardless of the larger needs.

An earlier clergy complaint was that "There was a sense that the pastor had no right to personal time for him/herself and their family." Maybe parishioners have the same concerns. From past experience, I recommend getting any time commitment spelled out in detail in advance to assist a pastor in resisting the temptation to lowball you.
Another related issue was the expectation that the pastor somehow is responsible for all the problems in the physical plant, i.e., the grass is too long; there is too much snow on the sidewalk; the flowers are not budding; the toilet is leaking; the door is sticking; it is too hot or too cold in church.

A previous pastor was always ready to rattle off the boiler specs from memory. Maybe that's where parishioners get the idea. And our current pastor did, in a prior column, report at length on a staff meeting dealing with people taking too many donuts at after-Mass "hospitality".


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Claude Levi-Strauss

In 1952, a scant few years after he learned the full tragedy of the Nazi occupation of his homeland, Levi-Strauss wrote a text that continues to resonate, Race and History. Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the book made the case that fighting the notion that some races are inferior to others also means combating the concept that some societies are culturally superior to others. --Benjamin Ivry, Claude of the Jungle: The other Levi-Strauss turns 100, The Jewish Daily Forward, November 6, 2008

Papal paper creates few local ripples

Annysa Johnson reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that local Catholic leaders expect Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical to have little impact. Among them was Marquette University business professor Eugene Laczniak.
He doubts business people will pay the document much heed, in part because of its "turgid" prose and the archaic way the Vatican disseminates such missives.

"For the most part, the Catholic social teachings of the church have not gotten the forum in the business community that I think they deserve," said Laczniak.

I'll try to post if the encyclical gets discussed in our Archdiocesan newspaper beyond the initial wire service report, or in any homilies at my parish.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Encyclical breaks new ground on social issues, commentators say

How ground-breaking is Pope Benedict's new encyclical?

The word obsequium makes its first-ever appearance at dotCommonweal.

(Via Nancy Frazier O'Brien, Catholic News Service, in Milwaukee Catholic Herald, July 9, 2009)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reading Rat Second Sunday

Updates to posts on my recommended reading...

Art and Literature

Bruce S. Thornton on the Odyssey of Homer

Stereotypist on the life of Flannery O'Connor

Kathryn Harrison on the life of Byron

Society and History

Seth Barrett Tillman on The Federalist No. 77

John Fabian Witt on the law of war and Abraham Lincoln

Science and Technology

The Economist on the uncertainty principle of Werner Heisenberg

Philosophy and Religion

Peter Dizikes on finding first editions of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Richard John Neuhaus on systemizing Martin Luther

On the recommended reading list itself, I've continued adding comments from The Harvard guide to influential books: 113 distinguished Harvard professors discuss the books that have helped to shape their thinking (1986), edited by C. Maury Devine, Kim D. Parrish, and Claudia Dissell

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Apollonius Rhodius

Only Gerard Manley Hopkins, perhaps, could do Apollonius justice and E.V. Rieu doesn’t even try. He shatters the poem and remakes it as a fantastic voyage. Peter Green is more ambitious, preserving more of the sense and the sentence structure, while making some attempt at the sounds. He is never less than lucid and occasionally musical, too. --James Davidson, Himbo London Review of Books, March 5, 1998, review of Apollonios Rhodios: The Argonautika, translated by Peter Green

Friday, July 10, 2009

Frederick Douglass

As fate would have it, the last time these two American friends saw each other was on the occasion of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. Douglass listened to the speech with the crowd and thought it contained some "brave good words." Afterward, he went to the Executive Mansion to attend the reception, but was not allowed to enter. When he sent word to Lincoln that he was being detained, the president ordered that he be admitted. Douglass found Lincoln in the elegant East Room, standing "like a mountain his grand simplicity, and home-like beauty." Lincoln said, "Here comes my friend," and took Douglass by the hand. "I am glad to see you," said the president. Then he asked Douglass how he liked his address, for "there is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours." Douglass famously said, in words that aptly sum up the work to which their lives had been devoted, "Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort." --Peter W. Schramm, Douglass and Lincoln, Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2008, review of 'Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln', by John Stauffer, and 'Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism', by Peter C. Meyers

Douglass was much drawn to Locke’s central premise, that man possesses inherent liberty “to dispose of his person or possessions,” and its corollary, that man’s work is what gives him title to ownership. --George McKenna, Someone’s Property, First Things, August/September 2008, review of Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism, by Peter C. Myers

The many lives of Frederick Douglass, by James W. Tuttleton, The New Criterion, February 1994

Archbishop declines to meet with sexual abuse victims

On Wisconsin Public Radio, July 2, 2009
Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland says he's interested in meeting with sexual abuse victims, but says Archdiocese lawyers are reluctant. A victims rights group doesn't buy the explanation. Chuck Quirmbach reports…

(via SNAP Network)


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Theodore Dreiser

During a recent lecture, the eminent and usually trustworthy literary critic Joseph Epstein befuddled at least one audience member (me) by referring to Theodore Dreiser as the “greatest American author of the twentieth century.” Huh? Dreiser was not even the greatest twentieth-century author from Indiana. In fact, in Beer’s Genuinely Objective Rankings of Indiana Authors, Twentieth Century Division, Dreiser ranks third, just a smidgen ahead of Ross Lockridge Jr. (who wrote Raintree County and nothing else) and considerably behind runner-up Kurt Vonnegut. --Jeremy Beer, What About Booth? Newton Booth Tarkington, Neglected Hoosier, The University Bookman, Fall 2008

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Philip Roth

As always in Roth's novels, the occupation of his characters is all-important and is described in elaborate detail. ----Charles Simic, The Nicest Boy in the World, The New York Review of Books, October 9, 2008, review of Indignation, by Philip Roth

The long road home , by Al Alvarez, Guardian, September 11, 2004

The last swinger, by James Wolcott, a review of 'Sabbath’s Theater' by Philip Roth, The New Criterion, September 1995

'Operation Shylock,' Review by D. M. Thomas, New York Times, March 7, 1993

'Patrimony,' review by Robert Pinsky, New York Times, January 6, 1991

'My Life as a Man,' review by Morris Dickstein, New York Times, June 2, 1974

'Portnoy's Complaint,' review by Josh Greenfield, New York Times, February 23, 1969

'Goodbye, Columbus,' review by William Peden, New York Times, May 17, 1959

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Oswald Spengler

The actual facts do not really matter. The a posteriori historical generalizations having been inverted unconsciously into absolute a priori regulative principles of historical change, they can no longer be seriously contradicted by other empirical facts which had been previously ignored. --Mortimer J. Adler, Spengler, The Spenglerites, and Spenglerism, Psyche, July 1927

The Complete Spengler, Asia Times

Pale in comparison

Who says Archbishop Weakland and many priests are narcissists? Archbishop Weakland.

He recalls returning from to Milwaukee from his first ad limina visit to the Vatican in 1979. Among items left behind by Archbishop Cousins, he finds a psychological profile of priests by Eugene Kennedy and Victor Heckler and a sociological study by Father Andrew Greeley. Both studies had been commissioned by the U.S. Bishops.
The findings of the reports corresponded to my limited experience with diocesan clergy. In particular, I resonated with the statement that psychological and social immaturity was one of the most serious problems among diocesan priests; according to the authors this indicated a weakness in the formation process. It is difficult to define immaturity, but we often recognize it in others when we see it; and to be honest, I had to recognize that same immaturity in myself. In addition, I was becoming concerned that narcissism was equally a problem among the clergy; again I could see this in myself. (pp. 248-249)

If admitting the problem is the first step, the book is not an account of subsequent steps, either as to himself or seminary formation.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Mathematics does seem to evoke a feeling of timelessness and certainty. We may not formulate geometry exactly as Euclid did, but none of Euclid’s theorems is now considered false. The proofs given by Apollonius and Archimedes still work as proofs for us, and the theorems they prove are, we say, true, not just agreed upon or universally accepted. --Fernando Q. Gouvea, The Book of Numbers, First Things, February 2009, review of Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio

Revisited: An array of bronze mirrors can set a wooden ship on fire. (From episode 16)


The large scale array simply took too long to light the ship on fire. On top of that the ship only ignited when it was stationary and positioned at less than half the distance described in the myth. The myth was plausible at a smaller scale, however. Flaming arrows were fired from a ballista at the ship, but to little effect. The most effective (and plausible with Archimedes-era technology) method of lighting the ship ablaze was through the use of molotov cocktails. --MythBusters, Archimedes’ Death Ray, Air Date: January 25, 2006

Archimedes constructed a death ray by reflecting sunlight onto, and thus igniting, Roman vessels.


In order to have any effect, the mirror would have to be impractically large, and even then, the temperature of wood only raised a few degrees. On the Discovery website, however, a challenge was thrown out to the viewers to come up with an experiment to prove it plausible, and so far, a few of the entries seem to have done so. When all the tests were completed the myth was conclusively busted. --MythBusters, Ancient Death Ray..., Episode 16, Air Date: September 29, 2004

That's why we drink it here

Archbishop Weakland's memoirs include a January 28, 1963 fire at St. Vincent monastery in Latrobe, Pennsylvania (pp. 97-99).
By mid-afternoon the fire was subdued and we could begin to assess the damage. At about 4:00 o'clock we all gathered in the recreation room to exchange stories. I do not know where the beer came from, but, through that old Bavarian tradition we had inherited from the [monastery's] founders, we seemed able to relate in a new way to one another that late winter afternoon.

I might try rereading a few chapters with beer goggles.

P.S. 2009 Theology on Tap Schedule Announced by our Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Theology-on-Tap is a speaker series designed to address the needs, questions and interests of young adults in their 20s and 30s.

Over drinks.

P.P.S. I think there was a Cardinal Martini in the book, but it wasn't a cocktail.

In case you were wondering, it's a Queen Elizabeth Martini that's made with Benedictine.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Jonathan Swift

Dean Swift is Rabelais in his senses, and frequently the politest company. The former, indeed, is not so gay as the latter, but then he possesses all the delicacy, the justness, the choice, the good taste, in all which particulars our giggling rural Vicar Rabelais is wanting. --Voltaire, On Mr. Pope and Some Other Famous Poets, Letters on the English, Letter XXII

Friday, July 3, 2009

Immanuel Kant

In his Critique of Pure Reason he claims that “‘Being’ is evidently not a real predicate,” by which he means that existence is not a property or a feature of a thing. ... And if existence is not a property or feature of things, Anselm’s argument fails: a perfect being has all the perfections, including the properties of being all-good and all-knowing, but not including the property of existing, simply because there is no such property. --Alex Byrne, God: Philosophers weigh in, Boston Review, January/February 2009 (via Arts & Letters Daily)

--James DiGiovanna and Carey Burtt, Kant Attack Ad, YouTube, December 8, 2007

Sapere Aude!, by Anja Steinbauer, Philosophy Now, January/February 2005

History, Reason and Hope: A Comparative Study of Kant, Hayek and Habermas, by Richard B. Day, Humanitas, 2002 No. 2

The discarded Lemon: Kant, prostitution and respect for persons, by Timothy J. Madigan, Philosophy Now, Summer/Autumn 1998

Burke, Kant and the Sublime, by Gur Hirshberg, Philosophy Now, Winter 1994/1995

New Old Catholic Archbishop and other news

Religion briefing, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Catholics for Peace and Justice July 2009 Newsletter

2009 Theology on Tap Schedule Announced, Archdiocese of Milwaukee (more)

Rite comes for the archbishop: Conservative branch of Catholicism installs new national leader in Wauwatosa, by Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ("branch" meaning the "Old Roman Catholic Church of America", that is, the Old Catholic Church of America)

10 ordained to diaconate, Ordinations to the diaconate continued, Milwaukee Catholic Herald

Ethel M. Gintoft, remembering a Catholic Herald legend, by Maryangela Layman Roman, Milwaukee Catholic Herald, June 25, 2009

Catholic Herald wins media awards, Milwaukee Catholic Herald

3 priests retire from active ministry, Milwaukee Catholic Herald, (Father Kenneth Metz, Father Jerome Rinzel, and Father Karl Acker)

Seniors, students spin a good yarn: After-school prayer shawl ministry unites parish community, by Marilyn Jozwik, special to "your" Milwaukee Catholic Herald

Suicide leaves lasting hurt for survivors: St. Peter bereavement ministry aims to provide consolation, by Tracy Rusch, Milwaukee Catholic Herald

Enrollment down, costs up; St. Luke School closes, by Tracy Rusch, Milwaukee Catholic Herald (see Lukewarm about the parish school)

Parish celebrates 144 years of education: St. Catherine now part of merged Northwest Catholic School, by Amy E. Rewolinski, Milwaukee Catholic Herald (that's two closed schools in this issue)

Fr. Massingale receives MU's top teaching award: Priest approaches classroom time as ‘spiritual exercise’, by Amy E. Rewolinski, Milwaukee Catholic Herald

Beyond the impasses...prayer and reframing the question, by Bishop Richard J. Sklba, Herald of Hope column, Milwaukee Catholic Herald

Losing a Prophet, by Ron Rolheiser OMI (via Milwaukee Catholic Herald)


State agency's new logo has an anarchist ring to it

The state agency, Patrick Marley reports in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is the Government Accountability Board and it's new logo reminds some of the symbol for Anarchy.
The board paid about $4,900 to have the logo designed by Madison-based Cricket Design Works, said Kevin Kennedy, the board's director.

"About" meaning close enough for government work?
He said he first became aware of the similarity when a board employee mentioned it as they reviewed drafts of the design.

"I think there are significant differences" between the designs, Kennedy said.

Different enough for government work?


Archbishop Weakland's memoirs (p. 67) include this from his days as a student in Rome (1948-1951).
I was surprised in later years to see how readily some in the Church labeled others heretics...


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Karl Popper

Popper "shows" [in The Open Society and Its Enemies] that he is smarter and more open-minded than Plato or Hegel. That kind of thinking is one of the main obstacles to open-mindedness in our time. --The Intercollegiate Review

It [The Open Society and its Enemies] made me realize how it is possible for a whole tradition of scholarship to distort systematically the interpretation of a period. --Orlando Patterson

Leningrad Cowboys, with the Red Army Choir, "Sweet Home Alabama"

(via Joseph Bottum at First Thoughts)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Robert Penn Warren

If political messianism was one disturbing cultural undercurrent of the 2008 presidential election cycle, faux populism was another. Faux populism is a perennial American political temptation, most brilliantly captured by Robert Penn Warren’s classic novel All the King’s Men. --George Weigel, A Campaign of Narratives, First Things, March 2009

Printer's devil

Archbishop Weakland's memoirs on his time as Abbot Primate of the Benedictines, 1973-1976, include (p. 199)
I ceased to be judgmental; I stopped categorizing people as good or evil.

Archbishop Weakland in an August 31, 1998 letter to Paul Likoudis, News Editor of The Wanderer
...although I have promised myself I would not demonize those who disagree with me, I believe you come as close to being a truly evil person as I expect to meet in my lifetime.