Saturday, October 25, 2014

Christ the Catalyst



cat·a·lyst
ˈkad(ə)ləst/
noun
  1. a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.
    • a person or thing that precipitates an event.
      "the governor's speech acted as a catalyst for debate"
      synonyms:stimulus, stimulation, spark, sparkplug, spurincitementimpetus
      "the governor's speech was a catalyst for debate"

There is a fascinating tale-within-a-tale in the midst of Cervantes' Don Quixote.  It's a novel that the priest reads aloud to the travelers - El Curioso Impertinente (The Impertinently Curious Man) - and it's the story of a husband who uses a fiction to tempt his wife, in order to test her virtue.  The characters in this story become wrapped up in an increasingly intricate fabric of lies and pretenses, until the truth ultimately destroys them all.

The question is - what does this story-within-a-story have to do with the overall tale of the Man of La Mancha?  Are there themes in El Curioso Impertinente that are being played out in the story of Don Quixote as a whole?

There are, of course, many parallels, but to me the most interesting one is this.

In the story of the Curious Man, the fiction that begins the action arises from an ideal.  The fiction is used to test the virtue of the characters.  As with Don Quixote, who goes mad over fiction, and who sallies forth as a rather tawdry knight-errant, bringing his love for honor and the imagined Golden Age of Chivalry into a world that can't contain it, so in the tale-within-a-tale fiction and imagination are agents - catalysts - to bring about a reaction that is potential, but latent.

Had the husband (the Curious Man) not tested the fidelity of his wife and his best friend, things would have gone along comfortably enough, the three of them and the crafty maid living a life that's endurable but compromised beneath the surface, a pleasant but somewhat false status quo that's not tested, that is not subject to any kind of essay or trial.  Yes, the trial (which seems foolish and impertinent on the husband's part) leads to tragedy, but that's because the characters are not up to the ideal that that fiction points to.

And we see that Don Quixote himself is a kind of catalyst and serves the same function in the overall story as the Impertinently Curious Man does in the tale-within-a-tale.

One of his first adventures involves our knight coming upon a boy who is being beaten by his master, who is trying to cheat the boy out of a portion of his wages and punish him before releasing him from his service.  Don Quixote intervenes and challenges the cruel master, until he elicits a promise that he will release the boy and pay him what he is due.  Trusting the honor of this scoundrel, Don Quixote rides off, thinking he has rescued an innocent victim from a cruel fate.

But after our mad knight rides off, the master treats the boy even worse.  Later, the boy finds Don Quixote and says (more or less), "Thanks for nothing!  Had you not come along, I would have received only one or two dozen lashes and at least a portion of my pay.  After you rode off, he beat me without mercy until I ended up in the hospital, and he ended up paying me nothing!  Curse you and all knights errant!"

By challenging the cruel master to live up to the ideal, the respect that a master owes a servant, Don Quixote makes things worse, and the depraved nature of the master is made all the more apparent.  The status quo ante was a compromise - "He beats me, but not so bad, and he cheats me, but only to a point."

And, dear readers, is this not a picture of our own lives?  "My husband cheats, but only online."  "My friend isn't there when I need him, but at least he's there when I don't."  "Our priest doesn't really preach about Christ, but at least he's not molesting the altar boys."

Hilaire Belloc calls this "our happy blending of good and evil things".  It is a picture of the compromise with fallen nature that makes up our daily lives.  But every now and then someone comes along (like, for instance, a mad knight, an impertinently curious man, or even, say, Jesus Christ) to challenge this comfortable compromise by showing us an ideal - perhaps an ideal that we can never completely achieve - and sometimes the presence of that ideal among us becomes an irritant, a catalyst, that causes a violent reaction that was potential but latent all along (like, for instance, the crucifixion).

Belloc's use of the phrase is worth quoting at length ...

The Catholic Church will have no philosophies. She will permit no comforts; the cry of the martyrs is in her far voice; her eyes that see beyond the world present us heaven and hell to the confusion of our human reconciliations, our happy blending of good and evil things.
By the Lord! I begin to think this intimate religion as tragic as a great love. ... Yes, certainly religion is as tragic as first love, and drags us out into the void away from our dear homes.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Backstage Bar Fight



I continue to celebrate, in my own quiet way, 25 years of performing murder mystery dinner theater shows.

This is from an email I wrote to a former actress in January of 2006

***

Tonight my actress Linda and I had two shows at a winery in Nashville, Illinois.  The winery only seats fifty people, so I talked them into doing two shows - a 5 pm show and an 8 pm show.  I am hiring a new guy and we had him meet us at the winery to see the early show.

Well, the early show was magical, just a blast.  The guy was very impressed and really wants to work for me.  "Do they always go this well?" he asked.  "Oh, this is pretty typical," we answered, which is true.  "Do you ever have problems with drunks?" he asked.  "Not that we can't control," we replied - also true.

Then he left (between shows) and I turned to Linda and said, "I think we've got this small-venue problem solved.  For wineries that can only seat fifty, we'll just do two shows a night like this, and we'll do just as well as we do at the wineries that seat 100."

Well, since God has a sense of humor and corrects all forms of hubris, especially backstage hubris, the second show was a disaster!  In 17 years of doing these, this was the drunkest crowd I've ever performed for.  We found out later that most of the town of Nashville came, and that they had all been at each other's houses drinking before the show started.  Rough raw rednecks out of their minds on booze.  By the end of the Act Two (after cutting all kinds of stuff and screaming at the top of our lungs, without much effect), one of the drunks got mad at the neighboring table, stood up and picked up an empty wine bottle to throw at them.  I was standing atop a chair as Neddy, with my propeller beanie on, not in any position to stop him, so Linda simply took the bottle away from him and calmed him down.  We quickly finished the show, and made a hasty exit to our dressing area, which was behind a partition in the corner of the room.  While behind this partition we kept hearing the tables yelling, "F*** you!" to each other, and Linda says,

"I've been in bar fights.  We don't want to stay here.  Just gather your stuff and get out!  If the bottles start flying, people are going to come back here to hide, and there will be no way out."

So we start throwing things into the suitcases and garment bags, I leave my costume on and throw my coat on over it, and we zip out through the crowd (who gives us a round of applause) and make it for the front door of the winery.  I'm not even worried about getting the check at this point, so you know we were desperate to get out.  But after this unmitigated disaster (we did only about four pages of a ten page script, cutting wildly, having no control over the audience, having absolute chaos and pandemonium around us), people kept stopping us on our way to the door saying, "That was great!  You guys are fantastic!  We'll be back again!"

Anyway, that's show biz.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex Sex - oh, and Love



Most modern people don't think highly enough of sex.

That sounds crazy, but let me explain.

One of my regular readers gets regularly mad at me when I make the analogy between adultery and "gay sex".  Her point is that a sexual orientation is something you just can't help, and it defines who you are, and it has nothing to do with sin.  She rejects the Catholic teaching that a homosexual orientation is intrinsically disordered and should be resisted with the virtue of chastity.

But, interestingly, when Facebook friend Mark S. Schmittle posted this comment ...

Chastity IS sexuality - the proper expression of sexuality, either in marriage, virginity or celibacy. The peace, joy, and love that result from a chaste life had to explained and promoted as the only true alternative to unchastity which brings tragedy, poverty, chaos, mistrust, and the objectification of human beings as things to satisfy our passions

... she replied ...

Gosh Mark - you're kind of right. I never saw it stated like that before - but you're right.

So it occurred to me that my blog posts are written to an audience that I assume is well grounded in Catholic moral theology.  But maybe it's a good idea to take a step back and try to explain the sort of stuff I've been taking for granted for a long time now, since not all of you are as steeped in this as I am, and explain how only the Catholic Church really gives a damn about sex these days.

***

First of all, though it's incredible that it needs to be pointed out to people, sex has a purpose.  What could that purpose be?  Hmmm.  I wonder.  Gosh, could it be making babies?  And also (considering our emotions and our souls) the expression of a total giving of one person to another?

Most moderns today reject the obvious and blatant purpose of sex.  Having been infected with a kind of spiritual Ebola that is more contagious than the real Ebola, modern people have adopted the most bizarre of all bizarre religious beliefs, and one that's based not only on blind faith, but on a faith that's devoted to blindness - the belief that there is no such thing as function, purpose, meaning or design anywhere in the universe.

So therefore a penis may go into a butt-hole.  No big deal.  It's not designed to go anywhere else, is it?  The anus is not designed for defecation, and the penis not designed for urination and procreation.  No way.  We can make use of our bodies in any way we want.  We could even eat through our noses if we wanted to, because the nose is not necessarily made to smell.  It could inhale and ingest yogurt and cream cheese, if we wanted it to.  Stop being so judgmental!

And if you believe in the sacrifice of reason to blind faith, you can swallow the modern denial of purpose and design.  But yet once you've made that sacrifice, you are unable to see the obvious fact (which is not even a conclusion, but a simple observation) that any use of the sexual organs outside of their design is "disordered".  "Sin" is simply a disorder - seeking a good in the wrong way or in the wrong amount or under the wrong circumstances.  "Sin" is what we call the rebellion against the Order that gives us peace.

But maybe these devotees of the Modern Faith of Purposelessness, if they can't admit to a biological design can admit to a psychological one.  In fact, they do.  They push it.  They might be reluctant to admit that any kind of sex is OK at any time, but they will argue that sex between two (or more) people who "love" one another is fine, if the sex is an expression of love, even if it involves anal intercourse (though they don't like to use that term, as it's clearly not the most ideal expression of "love" and it makes even them a bit squeamish).

But here we must celebrate, at last, a common cause.  We admit that sex is not just for making babies, but is also for expressing love - it's just that the only definition of "love" that makes sense is the definition that has grown out of that event that happened on Calvary 2,000 years ago.

Love is sacrifice: it is the complete and total self-giving of one person for the good of the other.  It is an act that involves the full engagement of our entire being - heart, mind, body and soul - and every aspect of our intelligence and will.  

The most clear manifestation of love in the world is therefore marriage and the family.  Celibacy and devotion to God through consecrated virginity and the priesthood or religious life is another expression of love, but that is the exception.  The ordinary and most clear manifestation of love is the lifelong commitment of one spouse to another, a living sacrifice that creates a bunch of kids, arguing siblings, Christmas dinners, annoying in-laws.

And even within the miraculous circle of this everyday thing, the family, chastity is the virtue that prevents sex, even within the confines of marriage, from becoming lust.

Lust is the objectification of one person by another, the use of another person as an object.  Lust is the opposite of love.  We therefore guard against it with the virtue of chastity not because sex is bad but because it's good - it's so good that we must keep it from becoming what we know it always tends to become if we let it - a monster that devours, rather than a gift that gives.

Anyway, this is all a part of the "seamless garment", the unified teaching of Christ that the Church continues to pass on (sometimes in spite of herself, and in spite of the desires of her bishops, popes and cardinals).  There's much more to be said, such as marriage prefiguring the Second Coming of Christ to His bride the Church, as well as admitting that homosexuals can clearly love one another, and love one another deeply, while recognizing that they can't express that love in a disordered way, by indulging in an act that degrades them if they abrogate it to themselves for a selfish purpose, when it is made for something other and something greater.  But I've said enough, and I'm certain that every single thing I said will be misunderstood, so I might as well shut up.

Except to say - only the Catholic Church thinks enough of sex to insist that it can only be the expression of full and sacrificial love between a husband and a wife who have given themselves to one another completely and for life, a gift of body and soul, of flesh and spirit, a gift that makes more life, little babies, new people, a gift that lifts us to our highest plane physically on this earth, a gift that gives a foretaste of the ecstasy that the cross entails.

Only the Catholic Church really cares about sex.

Marriage, Divorce and the Modern Mind



The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article over the weekend that examines the case of a divorced couple, with the ex-husband seeking an annulment over the ex-wife's objections.

The ex-wife, a Protestant, is not at all bothered that her husband divorced her and "re-married", contrary to the clear teachings of Jesus Christ.  The thought of renouncing the vows you make to the person you promise to love for the rest of your life is apparently no big deal (by the way, for each of them it was their second marriage).  What bothers this woman is the thought that her second marriage "never happened".

Her argument seems to be, "We promised to love each other and remain together until the day we died, and that was a valid promise, dammit! even though we've both broken that promise and are sleeping with other people (and I'm fine with that) - other people that we're promising to love and live with for the rest of our lives (as we did our first spouses).  Anyway, all of that breaking of vows and lifting your leg and pissing on marriage is no big deal.  What bothers me is if some jack ass in the Catholic Church is going to tell me that the marriage that we both desecrated by breaking our vows and moving on to other people never happened!  It sure the hell did, which is why we both walked away from it!"

Welcome to the modern world.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Christ Clone Trilogy

I've now recorded 35 audio books.  Most of them are available only through Ignatius Press.  But a few, such as Marcus Grodi's Pillar and Bulwark and How Firm a Foundation are available on Audible.

Now I have three more audio books that can easily be purchased and downloaded from Audible

They are the Christ Clone Trilogy by James BeauSeigneur.

You can listen to audio clips from each book in the trilogy here.  

This is an End Times story, and my readers will pick up a Dispensationalist angle, but there are some really excellent dramatic moments in these books, which is the story of a modern clone of Jesus, created from DNA cells found on the Shroud of Turin.  In addition, there's some penetrating insights into the New Age movement and the antichristian elements in it.

Check out the audio clips!  Here are the three books in the series ...






Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Joy of the Cross: We are More Than our Sins



Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2)

Kevin Tierney has written a powerful article at Catholic Lane that tackles the lukewarm (and rather depressing) compromise with sin that the Relatio from the Synod seems to convey.

In his article, Tierney defends (of all things!) the joy of the Gospel - even the joy of the struggle, of the long walk up Calvary and the many stumbles along the way.

Some excerpts (my emphases) ...

The Church no longer speaks of the joy of marriage, but instead about how difficult it is and how so few can live according to its precepts. The danger here is that we create a self-fulfilling prophecy: if marriage and the family are not the joy and fulfillment of man, then we will continue to see less joy and more difficulty. 

***

When I struggled with living out the moral teaching of the Church, I was never happy. Even when I was happy, I was less than I could be. Thanks to the design of God, that unhappiness drove me to seek answers, and it drove me to the confessional. While I obviously cannot disclose what was said during those sessions, never once did I find a priest who condemned and judged. All understood our struggles with life, and that a life of constant minor indiscretions can be even more dead than a life of only one or two major indiscretions. They practiced true graduality in slowly but surely guiding me towards living out the truth. Yet during all of this, these great priests did several things:

  • They reminded me that I was not called to live according to these sins. If God called me to something, it must be possible.

  • As impossible as it may seem, my struggling would lead to peace if I let Christ give it to me.

  • Following the Gospel provides a joy even during the lowest of times that all the pleasures and comforts of the world cannot match in their highest of times.

Read the whole thing here.

This is the great danger of the politics of "sexual orientation".  It identifies us with our sins.  If a man is sexually attracted to other men, why should that define who he is?  We all struggle against all sorts of sins, some of them quite horrific, but if I (for example) am "oriented" toward adultery, and yet I constantly struggle to cooperate with God's grace so as to be faithful to my wife, am I in fact an "adulterer"?  An "alcoholic" is more than his bottle if and when he begins to turn away from it.  There's a big difference between an alcoholic who allows himself to be dominated by his addiction and one who is vigilant (by the grace of God) in resisting it.

We are more than our sins when (by God's grace) we repent of our sins.

This is never easy, but it is the only way to the joy of Christ about which Kevin Tierney speaks - even though it is the Way of the Cross.

And the joy and grace that comes to us when we take up our daily cross is lost when our bishops and priests are too ashamed to call us to be more than our sins.  "Don't start up Calvary.  It's a rocky road.  Leave the cross by the wayside and relax.  Take it easy.  God loves you anyway."

As Bishop Sheen reminded us, the spirit of antichrist is the denial of His cross.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Approaching what is Real: Don Quixote, God, and the Rest of Us



For they had bartered the reality of God for what is unreal, and had offered divine honors and religious service to created things, rather than to the Creator--He who is for ever blessed. Amen. (Rom. 1:25)

As we drive around the country performing murder mystery dinner theater shows, my actress Maria Romine and I listen to audio books.  We've lately been listening to Don Quixote, the unabridged version, read very well by George Guidall.

It's a 40 hour long production, and we're only about five hours into it.  But we're listening to parts that I've never read (my printed version is abridged).

We've come to the "pastoral interlude" where Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are spending time with some shepherds.  We are beginning to learn that Don Quixote is not the only madman who's a bit too idealistic for his own good.  While Don Quixote has been inspired to become a knight errant, a group of well-fed suburban yuppies have been inspired to become shepherds and live out a kind of pastoral romance while not at the shopping mall.

In this interlude, we hear Don Quixote wax eloquently on the "golden age", a mythical era of chivalry that sounds as if it is set in the Garden of Eden before the Fall.  Then we hear one of the yuppies who's living as a shepherd wax eloquently on his "lady", the disdainful woman he's pursuing, whose scorning of him leads literally to his death.  We also hear from the pursued lady herself, and while Don Quixote bravely rushes to her defense, her own idealism - a kind of haughty virginity, a sort of smug isolationism - is as strained as the rather contrived love of the yuppie shepherds who dote on her.  Their romance is not quite love and her celibacy is not quite purity.

And that's the way we often are, even when we're at our best.  The reason this novel is brilliant is that it examines the complexities of idealism and cynicism.  Don Quixote, the yuppies, their lady - all are really quite mad in a way, and yet all are following ideals - ideals that they can't quite seem to make work in the real world.  (Kind of like all of us!)  And somehow everyone around them gets sucked in to the yarns they're spinning - and yet this is not entirely a bad thing.

What does this have to do with the Faith?

I write a lot on about Unreality.  This is my word for our proclivity to live a lie, a comfortable and apparently controllable lie, rather than living the truth.  We know what it means to "get real" with someone; getting "unreal" is just the opposite.  Unreality is marked by things that are contrived, artificial, and somehow dishonest or untrue.  Examples are Oregon Catholic Press music at Mass, bad art and architecture in the churches, the extremely artificial and contrived weirdness of "Christian Courtship", the false camaraderie of certain groups, cheesy literature and drama (such as Hallmark movies and certain self-consciously Christian films) - and also so much of what we see in the secular culture, especially our favorite fantasy that sex and gender are whatever we choose to make of them, our insane insistence that sex has no correspondence with nature or with reality - and our illusion that meaning has no correspondence with life, that meaning is imposed on life, not discovered in life, etc.

This is all dreadful stuff.  And in a way, Unreality is simply a word for sin.  Indeed, the Laws of Morality and Faith that God has revealed to us are simply the roadmap to Reality (and Heaven) and the Commandments are the "Do Not Enter" signs to prevent us from taking the road to Unreality (and Hell).

Adultery, for instance, is an example of an act that's dripping with Unreality and that always, somehow, leaves a bit of Hell in its wake.  Love and sex between a man and a woman are designed in such a way that sacramental fidelity and self-sacrifice over the long haul bring untold contentment as well as new life.  Fidelity leads to Reality (and, in a way, to Heaven) because God has made Fidelity at the heart of what is Real.  Therefore cheating, though fun, will end up in shipwreck and misery (in other words, Hell) - for someone, at least, is bound to suffer the consequences of the Unreal - even if it's the innocent children who are caught up in it all.  In other words, something like adultery is our way of denying the way things are actually made (Reality) and asserting our own fantasy against it (Unreality), and the pain we suffer (the Consequential) is simply the symptom that we've been doing things wrong, going the wrong way down a one-way street.  God's "judgment" is simply the consequence of denying the Truth and Living a Lie.  Unreality is always, then, a form of sin; and sin is always an assertion of a kind of Unreality.

But, as the book Don Quixote shows us, we are made to spin yarns and to imagine great things that never were, like the golden age of chivalry.  If we were all "realists" or cynics, we would all be materialists and atheists, for it takes a kind of poetic vision to see the reality of God and of His Kingdom.  Our capacity for Unreality may be the misuse of our creative and imaginative function - but without that capacity, we would not be able to apprehend the image of God: not because God is Unreal (He is, on the contrary, the source of all that is most Real), but because our imaginative function is our spiritual "nose" as it were, our ability to sense that which is beyond the immediate.

Fiction is made to lead us to Fact.  But as fallen men, we often misuse our fictive function, for we'd rather become gods than serve one.

Indeed, we often misuse the three major gifts that God has given us that separate us from the beasts - Will, Reason and Imagination.  This trinity of gifts - Will, Reason and Imagination (by the term "Imagination" I mean to include what Tolkien calls "sub-creation") - this trinity of gifts corresponds with the trinity of reality: the Good, the True and the Beautiful.  It is the business of our Will to conform what we do to what is Good; it is the business of our Reason to conform what we think and understand to what is True; and it is the business of our Imagination to conform what we dream and desire and make to what is Beautiful.  All three functions support each other, since the objects toward which they are designed are inextricably interconnected.  What is True is always Good, what is Good is always Beautiful, what is Beautiful is always an aspect of what is True, etc.  We are not ourselves designed to negate this design.  We are not made to use our Will to assert ourselves against the nature of morality, nor are we made to use our Reason to misunderstand the truth that surrounds us, nor are we made to use our imaginations to invent things to fulfill the desires of our hearts that are merely shortcuts or sops, things that give us passing pleasure but that are untrue, unreal.  God gives us these gifts - Free Will, Reason and Imagination - to be ordered to Him - for even though we may misuse them, without them we cannot truly serve Him.

So let me sum this up by speaking in a quixotic manner - and I think, perhaps, I am speaking for many of you.

Sometimes in pursuing my most ardent ideals, I find that I am merely tilting at windmills - or worse, I am hurting others by holding them to the impossible standards that I myself cherish, but that I myself fall shy of, too.  In addition, I waver between cynicism and idealism.  I am often tempted to see my steed as a broken down nag, my lady as the more or less compromised streetwalker that she is, my daily devotion to theater as the rather sordid performances in wineries for drunks and rednecks that these performances often are; or vice-versa, I see in my broken down nag the steed she really is; I see within the streetwalker a hidden lady of dignity and glory, and I see in my drunken audiences immortal souls being lifted up in laughter, being raised for a moment a slight bit closer to the One who made them.  And somehow all of this is true - the dreary reality on the surface and the stunning Reality behind and within it.

And so we pray

Dear God, may we always long for You as the hart longs for water (Ps. 42:1), seeing in You the source of the living water for which we truly thirst (John 4:10).  Do not let us fill ourselves with that which is unreal and which will not sustain us.  Show us our sins that we may repent of them and turn toward You.  Give us the grace "to turn from these unreal things, to worship the ever-living God" (Acts 14:15) - for thy Kingdom is always more real than the false and haughty man-made towers we build (Gen. 11:1-9).  Purify our Will to do what is Good, our Reason to see what is True, and our Imagination to desire what is Beautiful and holy.  And always remind us that the world we are tempted to love too much is also a bit less than fully real, that all of creation is but a "shadow of the things that are to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ" (Col. 2:17).


A Defense of People Who Care - or - Why It's Not Wrong to Be Angry at the Synod

To love is painful.

We don't always admit that, because to care about someone or something is not considered cool.  We like to seem glib and slick and well-adjusted, but speaking as the least well-adjusted Catholic blogger on the internet, let me say a few words in defense of People Who Care.

***

Kasper, the Friendly Ghost who's been Haunting the Synod


I had taken a short respite from serious blogging these last few weeks (I am, as I just said, the least well-adjusted Catholic blogger on the internet and sometimes it all becomes too much for me), during which time the most noteworthy thing that happened in the Catholic world was the release of the appalling Relatio document from the Synod on the Family.

The reaction to this document was glee from the heterodox, horror from the orthodox and a certain smugness from the "Look at Me, I'm Not Alarmed" crowd.  This latter group has the best of intentions.  On the one hand, they want to quiet what they see as panic.  On the other, they rightly see that this is bound to be a tempest in a teapot, both because the doctrinal teaching of the Church cannot change and also because this is a "working document" that, though official, is not Magisterial.

But, well-meaning though they are, the "Look at Me, I'm Not Alarmed" crowd failed to see something very important, and failed to convey the right kind of (pardon the expression) "pastoral care" of their angry and hurt brethren, the orthodox who feel so betrayed and abandoned by this document (especially those who deal with the temptation of homosexual acts and those who have been victims of divorce and remarriage, a few of whom vented to me privately over this).

The "Look at Me, I'm Not Alarmed" crowd failed to see how much those who were horrified by the document care about the Church, in fact love the Church, the Body of Christ, and are therefore appalled to see the shenanigans going on in Rome.  This is not to say that those who made a show of their ability to Keep Calm do not love the Church; of course they do.  But they simply forgot how painful it is to love something or someone deeply - how hard it is to care, especially when you're bound to get hurt by the person or the people or the thing you care for.

So I say, in defense of those who have been angry, even livid this past week, this is simply your Eros showing.  Continue to love the Church and make a loud lamentation when our bishops sell out Christ as Judas did, either for thirty pieces of silver, or for the approval of the secular world, or for a balm to soothe their own consciences, which could perhaps be troubled by the sinful and disordered lives they themselves are leading.

And remember what I have learned and what people like me have learned.  Most of our bishops are scoundrels.  Generally speaking, these are men who continue to enable the sexual abuse of children and get indignant and haughty when you point this out to them.  They are men who want to be popular and comfortable, and are therefore as far removed for the Spirit of Christ as you can be.  They are men who, themselves, are often given over to a variety of perversions.  Generally speaking, these are men who cannot be trusted - and yet in God's great condescension, He deigns to work through them, and asks us, in all humility, to obey them when they teach on matters of Faith and Morals.

Speaking of the latter, the Vatican backtracked on the most egregious of errors in the Relatio, issuing a more correct translation of the most offensive paragraph.  And CNA, in reporting that, also covered the official guide to the pastoral care of homosexual persons, which is an example of love in action, love that does not pander to the sickness of the times, love that speaks the truth with mercy.

In other words, it is an example of the teachings of Christ (as played out over the millennia and as defended by the Holy Spirit).

It is therefore worth quoting the CNA article at length (my emphasis) ...

In fact, pastoral care for homosexuals is well described in a 1986 document, issued by Cardinal Mueller's dicastery, “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”

Bearing the signature of the then-prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and approved by St. John Paul II, the letter was delivered to bishops worldwide, providing instructions on how the clergy should respond to the claims of the LGBT community.

Far from being a document of condemnation, the document provided a nuanced response to the issue of homosexuality.

The document stressed that "it is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs."

“Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”

Pastoral care for homosexuals was also addressed.

“We encourage the Bishops to provide pastoral care in full accord with the teaching of the Church for homosexual persons of their dioceses,” the document read

But – the document added – “no authentic pastoral programme will include organizations in which homosexual persons associate with each other without clearly stating that homosexual activity is immoral. A truly pastoral approach will appreciate the need for homosexual persons to avoid the near occasions of sin.”

Likewise, “we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral. Only what is true can ultimately be pastoral. The neglect of the Church's position prevents homosexual men and women from receiving the care they need and deserve.”

The document also dealt with the spiritual life.

“An authentic pastoral programme will assist homosexual persons at all levels of the spiritual life: through the sacraments, and in particular through the frequent and sincere use of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through prayer, witness, counsel and individual care. In such a way, the entire Christian community can come to recognize its own call to assist its brothers and sisters, without deluding them or isolating them.”

The approach of the document was thus that of reaffirming the truth of the teaching of the Church, and at the same time approaching with mercy homosexual persons.

 ***

And one more thing.

One of my good friends, who is especially hurt by the betrayal of Christ that's being pushed at the Synod, is concerned that this is a crisis of Pastoral Care, not of Official Teaching.  He points out that if the Official Teaching is abandoned at the pastoral level, the Official Teaching doesn't matter, practically speaking.  His position is, "Yes, the Official Teaching cannot change; but it will, in effect, be abandoned in practice."

I would respond, however, that the Teaching of the Church has been effectively abandoned at the parish level and (what's worse) in the living rooms and kitchens and bedrooms of our families for a long time now.

"Only what is true can be pastoral," the above document tells us.  But the care that our pastors have offered us and that we've offered one another has been largely untrue - or Unreal - for a long time now.

This is indeed a Pastoral Crisis, and it matters not whether the Kasperites give a de jure approval to a de facto situation.  Either way, when the rubber hits the road, we are failing Our Lord, and it comes to the same thing.

Either way, this is an example of our failure to love.

But remember, as I said at the beginning, to love is painful.  We must never forget that in our own lives or in the lives of others, especially when we see someone in pain because of how deeply he or she loves.

It is never wrong to care.

If you doubt that, just look at the nearest cross.



Musial in the Morning



Well, my team, the St. Louis Cardinals, were eliminated from the post-season last night, but it was nonetheless my honor to have just now appeared on the Son Rise Morning Show to talk about Stan Musial, the greatest Cardinal ever.

I got home late last night after our murder mystery performance at Canterbury Hill Winery in Holt's Summit, MO, and around midnight my wife asked me, "Why are you going to get up at 6:00 am to talk about Stan Musial on the radio?"

She's a great wife, but sometimes she just doesn't get it.  I would have gotten up at 3:00 am to talk about Stan Musial - on the radio or in my living room.

My friend Jim Sala once told me, "Never marry a woman who can't recite the infield fly rule."  But we can't all be celibate, can we?

Anyway, we're rooting for the Royals from this point on.  And take heart - we know there's a God because there's baseball.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Murder Mystery Photos

Dec. 17 of this year will mark the 25th Anniversary of my first public murder mystery performance.

Here are some photos we've taken along the way ...

With Jenna Fischer, Murder at the Haunted Mansion, 1994.

The original photo is me from Three Strikes, You're Dead, 1998.


Me as Phil Robertson in Death at Duck Dynasty, 2013

Ruth and I with Governor and Mrs. Carnahan, New Year's Eve, 1999

Who Wants to Murder a Millionaire? 2000

Who Killed Julius Caesar?  1999

Me as the Lord of the Dance, Christmas Killing in Kilarney, Holy-Field Winery, 2010.

Me as Robin from Pretty Woman of Death, 2014

Me as Conrad Birdie coming out of retirement - Die, Die, Birdie, 2001

Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara argue over a dead body, Gone with the Passing of the Wind, Evansville, IN, 2010



Me as Principal Borely of Shipley Creek High School, disciplining a student - Hooray for Homicide, 2004

Tonya Cunningham as the Smart Girl and Me as the Jock, Hooray for Homicide, on board My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, Bardstown, 2004

The Horrible Hobbit Homicide, Holy-Field Winery, 2013

Bing Cratchit backstage, I'll Be Homicidal for Christmas, 2010

It's a Wonderful Death, 1994

I've Got Friends in Buried Places, 2001

Me as Andy Griffith, Mayberry R.I.P., 2005.

Joel and Rachel with Betty White, 2008.


A promotional photo from our first show, Murder at Bunny & Clyde's, 1989.  (That's all my hair she's pulling!)

At the Missouri Governor's Mansion with Ruthie Hart, 1999.

Me as Charlie Chan, Murder on the Disoriented Express, 1998.

Me as Columbo, 2014.

Maria Romine and Dave Treadway, My Fair Murder, Holy-Field Vineyard, 2010.

Joel Friend as Sherlock Holmes; Me as Doctor Watson, No Schick, Sherlock, 1995.

As Woody Allen, Slay It Again, Sam, Hill Prairie Winery, 2004.

Me as Woody as a Giant Chicken, Slay It Again, Sam, North Shore Scenic Railroad, 2010

Me as Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, Slay It Again Sam, 2010.

Maria as Dorothy; Me as Larry the Cable Guy portraying the Scarecrow, We're Off to Kill the Wizard, 2012.

The Cowardly Lion (as portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, as portrayed by me), We're Off to Kill the Wizard, 2012.

Me as Al Gore as the Tin Man, We're Off to Kill the Wizard, Collver Family Winery, 2002.

Me as Gilligan, Gilligan's Island of Death, 2005.

Murder at the Mardi Gras, 1995


Who Killed Captain Kirk? 2000

Louisiana Chesterton Conference


Pastoral Care?

From Joseph Sciambra ...

Lastly, the homosexual orientation should NEVER be “accepted;” on the contrary it should be rallied against; as the only results from succumbing to the fantasy of homosexuality is hopelessness and death. As long as I live, I will never forget a dear friend who lied dying of AIDS; his wasted body covered only with an adult diaper; he looked up into my eyes and said to me: “Joe, it wasn’t worth it.” After that, I went straight back to the porn-shops, gay bars, and sex-clubs of San Francisco; for, the pull of all that was left unhealed inside of me was too strong. At the time, I had no one to turn to; the Church seemed patronizing and feckless, symbolized by the neighborhood gay-accepting Catholic parish; I had no Christian friends; and I felt as if the gay world was the only place I truly belonged. I saw no way out. Thus, herein rests my fear with the Synod’s statements: as they may well encourage some to go into the lifestyle; make it more comfortable for others to stay in it; and take away options for those who may want to leave; in addition, well-intentioned, but thoroughly misguided individuals in the Church will use the verbiage in the statement to further their own ant-Catholic pro-gay agenda. 

An AIDS victim.