Daily Archives: November 21, 2008

Cathy and David at the Movies: Quantum of Solace

David: The latest James Bond movie (the second with Daniel Craig as 007) takes up exactly where Casino Royale left off in 2006. Aside from Craig, Judi Dench is M, Mathieu Almaric is villain Dominic Greene and (previously unknown French Ukrainian) Olga Kurylenko is Camille (this film’s standard Bond girl).

Cathy: From the first breathtaking scenes to the end, this Bond movie is all about action, and the more extreme the better. I found myself holding my breath on many occasions throughout the movie as Bond bounces from one high octane action sequence to another.

David: “Bounces” is the word for it. I know this is supposed to be a fantasy, but the only way Bond could survive any of those chase scenes is if he were made of indestructible rubber. He’s not a superhero, but he survives action sequences more extreme than anything we’ve seen in Spiderman or Batman.

Cathy: The story line is thin on the ground, and what little there is seemed to be a bit confusing at times. The focus is more on the action than on any actual spying. However Daniel Craig does the moody revenge-driven Bond exceptionally well. And Judi Dench’s M adds a human touch to the film.

David: Yes, there is an obvious effort in these latest films to give some depth to Bond’s character, but it still remains fairly shallow. It is quite clear that the plot only exists to connect together the action sequences. And admittedly these visually complex scenes are very well done. I don’t think we have seen much better in this genre. I loved the Tosca scene where the on-stage fight was juxtaposed with the backstage battle to Puccini’s soundtrack.

Cathy: I was impressed with the tight, sharp cinematography of the car chase and the hand-to-hand combat. And even some of the location images, such as Haiti, were beautifully portrayed.

David: If you are a fan of James Bond movies, this film has everything you require. If you’re not, then don’t go see it. I’m giving it 2½ stars as a movie over all – although if I were rating it on the action scenes alone, it would be a 4 star job.

Cathy: Fast paced and exciting, good for an adrenalin rush. I’m giving it 3½ stars.

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Stop Press! Bishop of Bunbury calls for Radical Reconsideration Confirmation!

Well, this is the strangest “press release” I have ever read. It is a most unusual way to communicate episcopal instruction. Whatever happened to a good, old fashioned pastoral letter? Or a column in the diocesan paper?

That aside, we applaud Bishop Gerard Holohan for raising the question of the practice of Confirmation in our Australian schools.

He is spot on in calling Confirmation (as it is currently practiced) a “Sacrament of Farewell”. It reminds one of the old joke about how the parish priest got rid of the pigeons in the bell tower. “I just baptised and confirmed them, and I never saw them again”, he said.

And his analogy of catechesis to a trade apprenticeship in contrast to religious education as a TAFE course in that trade is spot on.

As is his call for us to return to the original and proper order of initation: Baptism, CONFIRMATION, first eucharist. The Orthodox have been looking at us sideways ever since we brought in the novelty of first eucharist BEFORE confirmation.

He is calling for:

– a new and focussed catechesis programme,
– a new level of parish and school collaboration,
– a catechesis strategy that draws in parents and even other family members so that families can offer catechesis and
– the raising of the Confirmation age.

This four-pronged approach is just what we need, but it’s going to take a hell of a lot of education and hard work and debate before we can see this level of reformation across the board.

Perhaps the next Synod of Bishops in Rome should be on the sacrament of Confirmation and the effective catechesis and initiation of the young…

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Nicked from Cooees

who nicked it from somewhere else…


I reckon this is probably Brian Coyne’s idea of “Sentire Cum Ecclesia”…

(nb. correction: When I say that the Cooees guys nicked it, I meant the picture, not the captions. They are Cooees originals).

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CATHOLIC Lessons and Carols for the ABC

In the combox to this blog about the ABC recording of Carols and Lessons in St Patrick’s Cathedral, that ubiquitous and tireless commentator “Anonymous” was incensed (?!) that we should be having a PROTESTANT form of worship in our Catholic Cathedral rather than, for eg., Pontifical Vespers. His final comment in the string was:

Wiki – that very reliable source – tells us that the order of Nine Lessons and Carols was adapted from an order drawn up by Edward White Benson, who would later become Archbishop of Canterbury, for use at a 10 pm service on Christmas Eve in 1880 that took place in a temporary wooden shed serving as his cathedral in Truro, Cornwall.[1] Based on an idea of the future Bishop of Edinburgh, George Henry Somerset Walpole,[2] the purpose of the service was to keep men out of pubs on Christmas Eve.[3]

In other words, a very post-Reformation idea.

Personally, I would imagine the idea of singing carols in Church as a service is likely to go back even further, given their popular origin, but this just underlines the fact: a carol service is not inherently liturgical in the Catholic sense.

Why do we not recover what is liturgical in the Catholic sense.

As far as Pontifical vespers not being a drawing card, I would respectfully say that never have I been to a liturgical service as “charged” as the Pontifical Vespers in the Extraordinary Form at WYD. The whole service was deeply prayerful – profoundly, and matched only a few days later by the Adoration with the Holy Father – what happened as the congregation pounded out “Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat”, I’ll take to the grave.

The simple reason we fall into the trap of saying this won’t attract anyone is because we never see it in order to judge it. Like that’s a rational, really empirical approach, no?

Weeellll… its just this thing about singing carols, Anon. It’s so much more “Christmassy”. I still don’t think Pontifical Vespers would get them switching on the telly on Christmas Eve…

And, I have some information to share. Consulting with our Herr Kapellmeister, Dr Geoffrey Cox, he pointed out that in fact the form of 9 readings is taken from from the 3 nocturns of three readings in the traditional form of Matins (as I suspected, the traditional vigil form). Hence, whether Bishop Benson was aware of it or not, the form is “inherantly Catholic”.

And to cap it all off, on Wednesday night they completed the Traditional Lessons and Carols with the expositio of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.

So there.

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About the Catholic Muslim Forum

I haven’t said a lot about the Catholic Muslim Forum that was held in Rome from 4-6 November. I’ve been waiting to hear reactions first. But I had to write a piece for the next edition of Kairos, so that got me thinking about it.

You have to sympathise with Cardinal Tauran’s comment that sometimes there seems to be “too many” dialogues between Christians and Muslims. There are other churches and religions out there that we need to be dialoguing with. But, perhaps given the fact that the geo-political stability of the earth seems to depend upon the one third of the population who are Christian getting along with the one quarter who are Muslim, the importance of the dialogue cannot be overestimated.

In case you don’t know the background to the Forum, here is the potted version from the A Common Word website:

On October 13th 2006, one month to the day after Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address of September 13th 2006, 38 Islamic authorities and scholars from around the world, representing all denominations and schools of thought, joined together to deliver an answer to the Pope in the spirit of open intellectual exchange and mutual understanding. In their Open Letter to the Pope (see english.pdf), for the first time in recent history, Muslim scholars from every branch of Islam spoke with one voice about the true teachings of Islam.

Exactly one year after that letter, on October 13th 2007 Muslims expanded their message. In A Common Word Between Us and You, 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals have unanimously come together for the first time since the days of the Prophet r to declare the common ground between Christianity and Islam. Like the Open Letter, the signatories to this message come from every denomination and school of thought in Islam. Every major Islamic country or region in the world is represented in this message, which is addressed to the leaders of all the world’s churches, and indeed to all Christians everywhere.

…Indeed, the most fundamental common ground between Islam and Christianity, and the best basis for future dialogue and understanding, is the love of God and the love of the neighbor. Never before have Muslims delivered this kind of definitive consensus statement on Christianity. Rather than engage in polemic, the signatories have adopted the traditional and mainstream Islamic position of respecting the Christian scripture and calling Christians to be more, not less, faithful to it.

So that is quite a unique opportunity for the Roman Curia (which prefers, wherever possible, to deal with authoritative and comprehensive representatives in all their diplomatic relations) to actually dialogue with “Islam” per se, and not some sect or school of thought within it.

But while the “Common Word” cooperative action has support of some of the national Islamic authorities (eg. King Abdullah II of Jordan is a patron), it really cannot speak for governments as such, and many of the concerns that the Catholic Church has with Islam involve the way it is imposed politically in some places. That was an obvious difficulty in the dialogue.

I found Tom Heneghan’s observation and use of the analogy of “funnel vision” most insightful:

Imagine you’re asked to examine a problem through a funnel but not told which end to look through. Some people will look through the narrow end and get a wide-angle view of the problem. Others will look through the wide end and get a narrow focus on certain parts of it. Both will be looking at the same problem, but in different ways.

This image came to mind after I spoke to members of both delegations in advance of the Catholic-Muslim Forum that starts today in Vatican City. Both sides are looking at the same problem – how to really improve understanding and cooperation between Christians and Muslims – but from different points of view…

The Common Word delegation seems to have grabbed the narrow end [of the funnel] and peered through it, thus getting a broad view of the challenge of deeper Christian-Muslim understanding.

The Vatican side seems to have focused on issues within the Common Word manifesto, looking with two eyes through the wide end to zero in on specific questions.

This is a rough analogy and not meant to criticise either position, since both perspectives can enrich the other. The broad view can help both sides to make progress despite differences on specific points. The narrow view can help clarify details of certain points in the Common Word manifesto.

The result of the talks was a 15 point agreed statement, which in itself is quite an achievement, but is really pointless unless it can be put into action. I guess you could put it in the category of a “choose now which way you will live” address to Christians and Muslims throughout the world, with a “but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” rider.

The longest point in the statement is point 1, on loving God and loving the neighbour (the broad end of the funnel), but points 2-15 are really where this fine rhetoric hits the road (the narrow end of the funnel). In particular, take special note of point 5:

5. Genuine love of neighbour implies respect of the person and her or his choices in matters of conscience and religion. It includes the right of individuals and communities to practice their religion in private and public.

Now that, if we could get it implimented universally, WOULD be an achievment. Of course, it is precisely this section that has received much attention from the media. One the Religion Report interview with one of the signatories of the original “A Common Word” statement included this exchange:

David Rutledge: The declaration puts a heavy stress on the importance of religious freedom, and specifically the right of Christians to build churches in Muslim countries. Now this is a contentious issue and Saudi Arabia didn’t have a delegate at the talks, and I wonder if you think that takes some of the shine off that statement…?

Ali Lakhani: Well it’s a good point that you make and I think what you are really bringing out is the fact that there are many different shades of articulation of faith, even within a faith tradition like Islam, and certainly in the case of the Saudis… So religion and politics really are intertwined here. In terms of the effectiveness of the declaration without those elements being included, I think that will be something that emerges over time. What has to happen is that there has to be a momentum, a critical mass that builds up over the sort of moderate and centrist views that will eventually be able to engage the less moderate views. But that’s an evolution. So I’m quite hopeful.

But how easy was it even to get point 5 into the final statement? In Heneghan’s interview with Tauran, there is this exchange:

Heneghan: What were the most important points in the declaration for you?

Tauran: The most important for us is the explicit reference to religious freedom in private and public. I think that’s important.

Heneghan: Was it hard to agree on?

Tauran: Yes, a bit. There was some discussion. On the spot, it was not acceptable for them. But there was a discussion.

Heneghan: I understand that Grand Mufti Ceric convinced the Muslim delegates to support this.

Tauran: You are well informed. [Don’t you just love that?]

Heneghan: Did it take a long time to agree on this?

Tauran: No, there was a desire to achieve results. He represents European Islam, which is more open and sophisticated.

Well, even better informed is Asia Times commentator “Spengler”, who, in a piece entitled “A Pyrrhic propaganda victory in Rome?” reveals all:

An especially Orwellian moment was reported by the Jesuit Samir Khalid Samir (as reported by the Italian service Asia News on November 7):

In the Joint Declaration, “the right of persons and communities to practice their faith in private and in public” emerged in point 5. Serious problems arose. Some Muslims said: “if you include those words you put us in great difficulty. Freedom of religion in our countries is governed by State law. How can we distribute a document that is against State law? We risk being disqualified and marginalized by our society”. Some Muslims suggested omitting at least the words “in private and in public”.

There was also a formula that defended the right to spread ones own faith such as “Da’wa” (mission for Islam) or Tabshir (Christian mission). But it was held to be too strong and so we eliminated it.

All of these difficulties were resolved by the grand Mufti [of Bosnia]. Mustafa Ceric recalled that the formula on religious freedom used in the joint statement “are those found in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Many Muslim governments signed this declaration. Therefore they must accept it, even though perhaps they don’t practice it”. This solved the problem and eased the path for all to adhere to the final document.

So there you have it. Yes, it was a victory (for the thin-end of the funnel orientated Catholics) to get an agreed committment on religious freedom incorporated into the final statement. But unless the Church can get some committment from Islamic political authorities as well as Islamic religious authorites, such a victoriy does, in the final analysis, appear “Pyrrhic”.

Still, as they are all saying (including his Holiness BXVI who received the Forum members in audience), these are only “first steps” on what will be a long and difficult journey.

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