Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Question of Respect: Intermezzo

The Church and Holy Scripture.

Objection: Who are You to Know Better than the Pope?

The matter of respect due the Pope by bloggers like the Bear invites a question:

Assuming it can ever be proper to criticize any pope, and even to use the sharper rhetorical tools in doing so, what makes you think you know better than the Pope?

After all, the Church is not a natural institution such as the court system, as you have used in your illustrations. It is a divine institution with protections guaranteed by no less a figure than Christ Himself. As such, the Holy Spirit guides the Pope in a special way that has nothing to do with random Bears wandering around growling and making a nuisance of themselves.

Even the Pope's ordinary magisterium - the teachings he emphasizes in a consistent manner in his regular communication with the world - requires the assent of Catholics.

If this Pope makes a theme of his pontificate that borders should not be closed to migrants, or that climate change is a matter requiring your concern, then it is the teaching of the Church - one of those teachings you are supposedly so hot to protect, you disrespectful barblogger - that even a pope's ordinary magisterium is a product of a charism he has and you do not.

If you want to pick an argument with him about that, or ecumenism, or interfaith, then it is you who are fighting the Church you claim to be defending.

Bear Agrees: Under Ordinary Circumstances, the Pope's the Pope

The Bear concedes this in theory. All things being equal, Catholics should not pick fights with the Pope. A certain amount of humility and trust is required, even docility. All of which the Bear freely admits that he lacks.

Your Bear also agrees that even with ordinary, man-made institutions like the judiciary or the government, the proper functioning of valued, even essential, mechanisms of a well-ordered society require that we show respect for its offices. (There is a good reason extreme politeness and deference are required of lawyers in a courtroom. Otherwise, in the heat of battle, a trial would quickly degenerate into a shouting match, if not kick boxing.)

Yet, of course the Church is different from a man-made institution like the judicial system. "The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it," as Christ promised.

By the Way, at Least the Bear Respects Holy Scripture

By the way, the Bear is willing to stipulate to the accuracy of the Gospels in that matter, even if - ironically - that accuracy is routinely questioned everywhere in a Church that is quick to throw a half-dozen favorite proof texts at a poor Bear faster than a Seventh Day Adventist at the first open door of the day.

The top Jesuit was recently quoted as saying we're not sure what Christ said about anything, since, after all, you stupid peasants, they did not have tape recorders in those days! Ha! Bet you didn't think about that like we Jesuits did! (Which is why, "So, like, what's up with Jesuits, anyway," is the most common start to all Catholic stand-up routines now.)

The Bear trusts the Church's current disdain for Holy Scripture (still following dubious 19th century German theories long since questioned by everyone else) is so obvious to the honest observer that examples (e.g. notes from the USCCB's NABRE) need not be multiplied.

However, Christ said many things - and the Bear believes we have them accurately recorded for our benefit - including that there would be a loss of faith. He even wondered if there would be any faith at all left when He returned. Private but respected revelation also warns of this, with scarier specifications.

We're not going to get very far cherry-picking proof texts. One never does.

However, the Bear digresses.

The Temptation of Papolatry

In any of these matters, it is easy, even tempting, to assume more than is taught. The Bear believes it is unwise to blindly rely upon our understanding - or the self-serving teaching - about the exact way the will of Almighty God is worked out with regard to His Church. The Bear will not cherry-pick or take anything beyond reason.

The Bear says "easy, even tempting," because most many average laymen want to be the very best Catholics they can be. They are willing to be quite strict in their understanding of things, and will not trust their own mind - or eyes, ears or even noses. Perhaps the Bear has been ruined for life by his career as a lawyer, but it is impossible for him to reject evidence in favor of cant. There is something, if the Bear may be frank, a little strident in some of the defense of a pope, especially from the popular "conservative" wing of the Church and its spokeshumans.

The Bear will make no friends by saying Catholics have, at times, shown a superstitious streak. (Of course, humans are prone to that. Did you know the very first thing they worshiped were Bears? Go figure.)

Instead, the Bear understands the validity of religious teaching by anyone in the context of the historical Deposit of Faith and Holy Scripture. If a pope says something, even repeatedly, the Bear is not going to agree with it if it clearly contradicts or distorts the testimony of those two witnesses.

Your counter-arguments are
invalid because Ginger.
The Bear would call such a statement heresy, but more learned authorities than he (and he is not an authority on much except horse flesh and Ginger Rogers) are free to debate technical terms.

The Bear is not talking about a mere difference in emphasis or interpretation. If a pope has decided what the world needs now is love, sweet love, the Bear would agree; but if he were to assert particular contemporary political views as the only valid expression of love, then the Bear would listen, but make up his own mind on the application. (The Bear has not given the USCCB his vote to give to Democrats, either.)

By the way, the Bear rejects the circular argument that goes: "Ah, but a pope's teaching on a matter is not official if it conflicts with Church teaching." Rather, he agrees with that, of course, but it can't be a canon for judging papal teaching, can it? The point is, a pope should not be saying anything that conflicts with Church teachings in the first place, should he? If he is running around spreading personal opinions that are "unofficial," what good is he? So the argument is worse than useless. It is a smokescreen.

Authority and More Authoritative Authority

So there you have it.

It is the old contest between argument from authority versus argument from everything else.

No, that's not right. The Bear argues from authority, too. His authority is just more authoritative, because it is broader, and deeper, and higher, and more ancient. Because it is not the opinion of any one man or Bear. It is especially not easily identified with certain 20th century political movements, religious fads, nor the 21st century zeitgeist.

The Bear's authority is not sick with what the West died from (although the corpse is still warm enough for most not to notice - they will).

The Bear will believe and respect the authority when the authority demonstrates it has done the same. When a pope speaks in a way that is recognizably Catholic, then the system is working, assent is demanded and respect is due.

If - Thens

Respect the shovel of truth.
If a pope were to be clearly at odds with the Church herself on one or two matters, then assent would be properly suspended, but respect is still due under the ancient legal doctrine of "nobody's perfect."

If, however, a pope were, hypothetically, to be clearly at odds generally with the Church herself in many things, so as to suggest an opposition to her very Spirit, then such assent would be foolish or wicked, depending on the individual Catholic.

"Respect" has been forfeited by someone setting fire to the Woodlands. Smokey would not allow "respect" to prevent him from smacking an arsonist up side the head with his shovel.

So, this...

"Oh, well, if the Ranger is setting fire to the forest, he is the Ranger, after all, and we animals must respect him and presume that he is conducting a controlled burn or something else we stupid beasts cannot understand."

... is not going to impress the Bear as much as the bed of a truck filled with cans of gasoline and highway flares. If someone wants to "controlled burn" his house down, he had better be ready beforehand with some pretty darn good reasons. (The Bear will be getting to the strange absence of any serious attempt to justify changes in the next piece.)

One Very Long Sentence That Sums it All Up

Now that you have been prepared, please take a deep breath and concentrate for a long sentence. It is not making any allegations, just proposing some principles for discussion in a sort of worst-case scenario. In other words:

if the protections given the Church are not embodied in one man, and automatic, and irresistible, and absolute, and in accord with the simplest understanding of Catholics of a particular wing of the Church (and explanation by self-interested clerics) and...

if it were possible to have a pope whose consistent views were so at odds with the Faith and Holy Scripture that he in effect made himself the prophet of a different religion (becoming a "false prophet," which is nothing more than a man claiming to speak on God's authority while just making stuff up)...

then it would not only be permitted, but meritorious to resist such a hypothetical pope with all rhetorical tools available, including those designed specifically to reduce an illegitimate demand for "respect" that only prevents the proper emergency response. (That would include the Three Stooges eye-poke.)


Of course, if the "ifs" are impossible, then the "thens" don't follow.

But the only way the Bear can see for this argument not to hold water in principle is if lay Catholics never have any duty toward the safety of their religion, no matter how destructive a renegade hypothetical pope may be, to the detriment of the Church and the ruin of souls.

If, for example, one wants to argue that, for better or worse, a pope is placed over the Church directly by God Himself and operates according to His mysterious will for the purpose of "chastisement," or arbitrary change, or no purpose at all, and that "disrespect" toward a pope is always sacrilege, then the Bear respects one's right to so argue.

However, the Bear won't be following anyone into territory that would so quickly drown poor Bear and all the Woodland creatures in the swamp of nonsense or superstition or both.

Note that the Bear is speaking hypothetically here. He is more interested in exploring the principles than talking about any person living or dead.

And now a very important personal plea. Long-time readers of this ephemeris will know that the Bear has absolutely no sense of shame when begging in the most degrading manner for salmon and sales for his dubious novel. This time he's begging for something else, that won't cost you a dime. 

If you've enjoyed articles like these, and you've already read his dubious novel, won't you pretty please drop a quick review of Judging Angels at Amazon? Be the 10th reviewer and become the one to meet a major psychological milestone for a new author and make him happier than a Bear with a salmon in his teeth and a honeycomb in his paw when all the bees that made the honey are on vacation at Branson.

Amazon reviews are ridiculously important to spreading the word about a book. It's like "leveling up" in a game, decided by numbers of reviews, where "recommendations" and other powers are unlocked.

"I can't write book reviews," you say? Sure you can! Pick a number of stars, and type what you liked about it (or didn't) in a sentence or two, e.g. 

"I liked it because it had redheads and guns and quoted St. Thomas Aquinas. The spelling was excellent." 


It's a cinch that the mainstream Catholic media is not going to help the Bear, since they obviously hate Bears.

Thank you in advance.

Your pal,
The Bear

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Question of Respect

Respect me, or else.

A Common-Sense Response to the Complex Question of Respect

First of all, the Bear acknowledges that this is a complex question, although he maintains it is not a hard one. For too many of his fellow Catholics, it seems to be an absolute that rests on ways of understanding reality that are uncongenial to Bears. As always, the Bear is not claiming that he has the complete truth. He's never been one for The Big Answer and has refused to endorse any theories along those lines.

Make sure you and yours are reasonably well-catechized, use the Sacraments, read the Bible, try to stay in a state of grace, be ready to help others, and peddle through life on a bicycle while juggling flaming horse heads. That's something everyone can enjoy, right?

Who is Bear to judge what sort of sense his friends try to make out of all these goings-on, especially with the Eclipse of Doom coming right down poor Bear's chimney?

Supernatural Answers are Beyond Bears
but are Usually not Necessary

While the Bear wholeheartedly accepts the supernatural, he does not know how to factor it into analysis. That is why he has never tried. Where natural explanations are good and sufficient, he does not try to nose down supernatural ones. If, in the end, the only answer is the Calvinists' "Sovereign Lord," or Muslims' "Insh'allah," what's the point of blogging anyway? Why get your brakes fixed, if Allah or the God of Calvinists has already doomed Joe Bogagi to die beneath your Goodyears?

No, the Bear sticks to evidence and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom.

It seems quite reasonable to the Bear that the Bishop of Bratwurst could have an unnatural appetite for adolescent boys. That is an issue of the sort the criminal justice system deals with as a matter of routine.

It also seems reasonable to the Bear that said Bishop might hold and teach dodgy theology, as well. While perhaps more esoteric, at least the more obvious questions should not be beyond the powers of educated laymen.

Furthermore, since it is a matter of historical record that there have been popes of dubious morality and imperfect theology, we know that even they are subject to temptation and falls of all kinds.

One might argue that it is a matter of current events that Pope Francis has been somewhat distracted, shall we say, from a full-throated defense of the Deposit of Faith. The Bear does not feel moved to attribute any supernatural cause to this, such as a "chastisement." Nor does the Bear believe every word that falls from Pope Francis' lips to a waiting microphone is nectar distilled from the Holy Spirit, or that the Pope is incapable of refusing to cooperate with God, or operating on bad information or suffering from a poor formation, or just be plain wrong.

The Bear does not feel it is necessary to reach for any supernatural explanations at all when the Church seems to be failing in the exact same way at the exact same time as every other Western institution. These are the days of our lives, which is not to say they are not the last days, too, just that the Bear is not competent to judge such matters.

It seems to the Bear only natural that we might come up a cropper in a papal election, especially these days. South America in general and Jesuits in particular are hardly synonymous with "orthodoxy," after all. The Bear can acknowledge facts without running around in circles like the Woodlands is burning down. Presumably, God is charge of the big picture, and the Bear expects a lot of surprises when the final credits roll, anyway.

Mea Culpa

The Bear acknowledges that he has not only criticized the Pope, but has also used the sharper rhetorical tools of parody, invective, and agitprop. The Bear is sure his readers chalked that up to "Bearishness," and figured it was just the Bear's style, and an effort to be humorous.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Here, at the end, the Bear reveals the method behind the meanness.

The Bear condemns insulting people for the sake of insulting them. For one thing, there is no art to hurling insults, e.g. "Bat Christian."

On the other hand, the Bear has not been deterred from criticizing anyone by a demand for "respect." Sometimes that very "respect" is not just an all-purpose objection to criticism, but a cover-up for wrongdoing. Worst of all, "respect" can be not just the blanket that covers, or the gag that stops criticism, but the very means by which someone commits evil.

The cries for "respect" and the need for legitimate criticism are never more in conflict than in this last case: when someone uses the cloak of respect to cover his misdeeds, repel deserved criticism, but also as the very instrument of wrongdoingIn such cases, the issue of "respect" is not irrelevant to the criticism. Indeed, the force field of "respect" must be the first target, because as long as that shield is up, criticism can go nowhere.

"Shields Up"

That kind of "respect" is the kind of protection Captain Kirk could only dream of from shields on the Enterprise.

The ordinary Catholic's "shield of respect" he is willing to grant is not only defensive, but offensive. It not only intercepts attacks, it bounces them back upon the attacker. The question is not whether the criticism is correct or not. The answer is simply, "You must never criticize the Pope!" for example. A fortiori, then, one must never be disrespectful to the Pope!

Therefore, if one criticizes the Pope, however validly, he is struck down seven-fold by the defensive-offensive force field of "respect" and the millions who generate it. Some of them pretend reasonableness by saying, "You may criticize the Pope, if you must, but always with respect." That sounds good until you try to work it out in practice.

In other words, you may criticize as long as you do not penetrate the force field of respect generated by the Church and supporters of the Pope. Understand that the attack will be repelled, and you yourself will be blasted, not your target. Underlying all of this is a tacit assumption that it is never legitimate to criticize the Pope. Because of God or something.

Even if criticism is allowed, after all, and "respect" not insisted upon, if someone does try to disable the force field of "respect" with the Phasers of Truth set on 100%, now the objection is "no, no, no, you've gone too far!"

Pfft. Bear gets tired of all of this human silliness. If the attack is true and matters enough to make, it should be as effective as possible. If the Bishop of Bratwurst is molesting adolescent boys, the Bear will call him a "bugger," whether that is an impolite word to apply to a prelate or not. The Bear believes that even those willing to hear criticism still want to look like they just stepped out of a holy card. Faster than you can say "Saint-Sulpice" you're rapped sharply on the muzzle.

Sometimes the Bear suspects a superstitious dread and papolatry that Jack Chick himself would reject as "too hard to sell even to snake-handlers."

Thus, one may expose the wolf in sheep's clothing, but one must never touch the sheep's clothing to accomplish the disclosure. What a neat trick that would be! And how convenient for the wolf!

One may expose a bishop who abets the molestation of adolescent boys, but has it not been the problem that the institutional force field of "respect" has not only hampered discovery and prosecution, but has been the very means for the abuse to occur and continue? Is the Bear wrong about that? If so, please, let him hear it.

Ah, when "respect" is the very means of doing what deserves criticism.

Now, that is where the Bear's "lack of respect" is not just playing, or used for shock, but is an essential and legitimate part of the criticism. As long as the Bishop of Bratwurst is "respected" and all, how do you effectively criticize him? "Lack of respect" is nothing more than laying hold of the sheep's clothing and yanking it off the wolf! (A practical example from the law will be coming in the next article.)

The Nature of Respect: Earned and Conferred

Respect is something owed to one person by others. It comes in two ways. The first may be gained by anyone, and depends upon character, the good odor of which is spread by reputation.

The second is conferred by an external authority completely independent of character, and says absolutely nothing about the person that must now be respected. In fact, the compromises one must often make in many institutions in order to get that "respect" conferred, whether it be a colored hat or tenure, might cause some to view it with cynicism.

Since the first kind of respect is honestly earned, it is "safe." This kind of respect is deserved and trust naturally follows. It is the very best kind of respect and belongs to the one respected as a personal attribute stemming from good character.

The second kind of respect  is conferred by authority, usually to support the function of an institution. It has nothing to do with character. A judge, for example, is "your Honor" in the courtroom, and is treated with the utmost deference. His decisions are not questioned during a trial. He may be an alcoholic wife-beater with gambling debts, but that does not matter. The best we can do is hope that his bad character does not interfere with the fair administration of justice.

Indeed, many have deliberately used an externally-conferred demand for respect as a cover for the worst deeds. Sometimes this has happened within the Church.

When the Respect-Conferring Office is the Very Means of Misconduct

What is the proper response when a bad actor uses institutional respect as the very means of doing and/or covering his evil?

This is an important question. A bad person without an office of respect may do evil. (Most criminals, for instance.) A bad person with an office of respect may do evil unrelated to his office of respect. (For example, a judge who uses cocaine.) And then there is a bad person with an office of respect who deliberately uses that office as the very instrument of wrong-doing. (A judge solicits a bribe for a certain ruling.)

In the first two examples, the question of "respect" never enters into the picture. It is irrelevant to the wrongdoing. In the third, the robes of conferred respect are inextricably linked with the wrongdoing. The bribery can take place only because the corrupt judge is a judge.

The finest cloth of conferred respect is often the instrument for committing the worst crimes. The Bear does not fear a thug nearly as much as a thug with a badge.

When one has decided it is solely by means of the office (the one that everyone is demanding must be "respected") that the acts requiring criticism are being performed, then it follows that the very first attack must be made upon - not the office - but the unworthy use to which a person puts the respect due to that office. The distinctions are as fine as gossamer, perhaps, and yes, the respect due to the office deserves consideration.

And yet, you gotta burst that bubble of awe, even if it takes a Three Stooges eye poke.

What About Damaging the Papacy?

Martin Luther erred by criticizing not only the Pope, but the papacy. Few bloggers criticizing Francis are wanting to do away with the papacy (or any other genuine teaching of the Church - sometimes it feels we're the only ones who still care about those). May one criticize the papacy, yet acknowledge a virtuous and learned pope? Sure. By the same token, one may criticize a pope, and not touch the papacy.

The knee-jerk answer is that criticism of the pope necessarily brings the papacy into disrepute. The Bear does not see why that should be so. Even if that is true to some extent, the antics of an out-of-control pope pose a far greater risk of scandal and permanent damage than a bunch of bloggers.

The way the Bear has always viewed it is that the cloak of respect covers all intended uses of the office. When a person who has been conferred the respect of an office misuses that cloak of respect to cover misdeeds, gag critics, and advance his personal interests to the detriment of the institution that gave him that cloak to begin with, then he has uncovered himself to a greater or lesser degree from the protection of that cloak.

However, given the religious characteristic of some cloaks, people can easily become confused. They become absolutists. They refuse to follow their logic to go to the ridiculous place it leads. For them, of course, no argument is sufficient. The Pope is holy, correct, and might as well be Mumbo Jumbo of the Victorians. Bear sincerely hopes none of those types have wasted their time reading this far.

But how about this objection? "We must combat each individual error of a pope one-by-one, while respecting both the person and the office." That is actually a decent objection, and should be the approach whenever possible. In a rare case, however, it is not one or two errors, but a spirit of error that may color an entire pontificate. Given modern mass media, might a pope count on "respect" to keep the malcontents quiet while he deforms the Faith?

This calls for its own answer, but not in this already long article.

There is also "sacrilege," although wicked Bear observes it is pretty convenient when an institution that is your only ticket into Heaven (when it suits it - otherwise, confusingly, it's all about the interfaith) puts its upper management beyond criticism by the likes of you and Bear. See? It's a good thing the Bear is stopping blogging now, since he is truly so wicked and full of bad thoughts. Yes, Bear acknowledges sacrilege. He does not believe criticizing churchman who are deforming the faith falls under that.

Next (Related): The Two Classes of Witnesses and How Each Must be Cross Examined

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Now, I have your precious Bear all to myself!"

If you want to blame Red, it would not be unfair. That's the way they operate.
Or the eclipse. They operate that way, too.

Official Notice from Bear HQ

For reasons that are as uninteresting as, for example, how the Bear wishes to spend his remaining time on this planet, the famous St. Corbinian's Bear's Ephemeris - "A Curious Entertainment for Discriminating Catholic Ladies and Gentlemen," will be going dormant  - hibernating, if you will - within the next couple of weeks.

The Bear feels this announcement will allow people to adjust to the severe psychological shock of a world without the Bear's visible presence and allow clerical miscreants time to plan celebratory cocaine-fueled orgies.

It will also allow the Bear to revisit some more controversial issues relating to the Church and the ephemeris itself that do not depend upon the day's news. Should future historians of the Decline and Fall of the West wander into the Woodlands and discover prophetic scrawls, they might benefit from this retrospective before they burn the Bear's cave and all it contains with fire.

But Bear, What Does This Mean?

Coincidence? Eclipse will be right over Bear's cave.
The symbolism could not be clearer.
Maximum Totality here: 2m 37s.
Viewing rental: 100 salmon.

What is meant by "hibernation," and "dormant?"

First of all, it does not mean dead. The Bear has hibernated before, and come back. He reserves the right to post whenever and how often and upon whatsoever subject he is moved to post. He could decide tomorrow the whole hibernation idea was bad. Bears are unpredictable like that.

What it means is that the Bear will not feel guilty when he does not post regularly. So, it is more of the removal of a self-imposed obligation toward his readers than walking into the sunset forever.

It does not mean that the 1300+ pieces published over the last four years will disappear. Most of the Bear's articles are not timely, anyway, so if you have not browsed among the regular misfiring of the Bear's 450 gm ursine brain, there is still plenty to enjoy in the archives. And that includes the comment box. Articles are available organized by date or or searchable by topic.

The Bear doubts non-bloggers appreciate the amount of time a blog takes. For most pieces, by the time something is researched, written, rewritten, posted, then proof-read (although it never seems to do any good) and the Bear interacts politely with visitors, a full day of writing has passed.

The Bear Makes a Difficult Choice: Ice Cream or Cake?

Waving a "red" flag?
It has become more and more apparent that St. Corbinian's Bear's ephemeris is in a competition to the death with the Bear's (award-winning) novel Judging Angels and the Rubricatae Chronicles series it unintentionally spawned. He wishes he did not have to choose between ice cream and cake.

So why choose? It is impossible for the Bear to do both. The ephemeris reaches - and therefore presumably entertains - far more people. And yet, it is the nature of ephemera to be ephemeral. Pieces flutter to the sidewalk before your feet, are perhaps picked up and read, but then they all go into the trash can of yesterday's news. It is the way the Internet works.

The creative lure of putting between two covers substantial characters in an original world and exploring timeless themes from a Catholic perspective is irresistible to the Bear. In other words, the scope of very long fiction ticks all the Bear's boxes. Nor does it mean that current events will go unnoticed, but in a way suitable to the medium.

The Bear knows he will never be able to rest until he has finished the (so far tragic) saga of the all-too-human Able family.

If you thought things were bad at the end of Judging Angels, you may have underestimated the cruel ingenuity of Bear novelists. The next book has plenty of surprises, a few insights, and, the Bear hopes, still some "he did NOT just do that!" moments. Not to mention the Bear's trademark mordant humor to remind you not to take things too seriously.

The Bear knows it will take a minimum of two more good-sized books to finish the tale. He knows that because he knows what's in the second book and the end is not nigh. But the Bear himself is living on borrowed time at 800 years (that's 60 in human years). Who knows how much time he has left to wrap things up?

Naturally, readers of this ephemeris will think the Bear is putting all of his eggs into the wrong basket. The Bear understands and does not argue. He does not want anyone to think he is distancing himself from loyal readers without many a pang. Thank you.

For now, he invites you to read a few last articles.

For now.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Please forgive the ultimate in lazy blogging, but for a Bear, Bear is doing the best he can to satisfy all consumers of Bearish perspectives, even those who think they are reading novels.

Here is something Bear posted elsewhere. It is so brilliant, Bear must quote it here:

Francis is a small-minded man with a resentment for Northern – especially U.S. – wealth, success and power. Economics is a zero-sum game for him. If we are rich and Venezuela is poor, we must have taken our wealth from them. He sees things in naturalistic terms from a leftist, if not Marxist, perspective. That is not an “oh, by the way,” to explain his hatred of American conservatives. That is the horrific reality of our Church today. It is not animated by anything that would seem out of place in the New America Foundation or any other Soros-tentacled think tank that have already turned the USCCB into a Democrat front group. If you ever wondered what the Catholic Church would look like without God, you have your big chance now.

Let the Bear (who is NOT a Spectacled Bear - the only miserable distant relatives the Bear has in Argentina or he would have ordered his ursine legions forth across the entire blighted continent) get this straight. Humans chose a pope from Eva Peron land, from a continent where Liberation Theology covers real Catholicism like kudzu covers telegraph lines in Mississippi, and are shocked, shocked, Bear says, when he tries to single-handedly immanentize the eschaton

Anyway, that's all the invective the Bear has time for today. Go here to American Catholic to read something sensible and well-informed about the latest flap from Caracas-on-the-Tiber.

For God's sake, screw this idea of "the world" and bury your nose in Ecclesiastes and the Gospels. This universe is 14 billion years old. It may last another 14 billion. "The world" won't. At the rate humans are going, it will end in a century with one final cry of Allahu Akbar and good riddance.

Bears will take their rightful place as masters of the earth.

A blink of the eye, friends, as is your life. Nobody in Heaven cares about the big issues or debates economic theories. Remember: YOU made headlines in Heaven today, good ones or bad? You can't help it. Don't sweat anything BUT the small stuff. God is all about the small stuff. 

Only men and devils care about the big issues.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Known and Unknown

As the Bear has this week been engaged in a brief hiatus (it is, after all, summer), here for your edification are more relics, some of which are not too often seen.

Ex pallio S. Iosef

Above is a small piece from the cloak of Saint Joseph (the Betrothed) in a modern theca. This was given to me by a Catholic priest and it was sealed by the Augustinians. Only a few parts of Joseph's cloak, belt, and staff are known to still exist on earth and his body has never been found. In 1889, Pope Leo XIII instructed in Quamquam pluries that the popular novena to the Holy Cloak of Saint Joseph be added to the recitation of the Rosary in the month of October, in memory of the 30 years Joseph had spent living in the company of Jesus Christ. Three places were Saint Joseph's relics can be found are at the National Historical Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria; at Saint Anthony's Chapel in Pittsburgh, and in the Philippines.

Ex ossibus Ss. Martyrum Machabeor

From the same priest came the above theca with intact seal containing a small piece of bone belonging to one of the Old Testament Maccabean martyrs. I have no idea which Maccabeus this is, but their relics can be found at the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, Italy. The original provenance of this relic was the Vatican according to the numerical markings on the back of the theca.

Ex ossibus S. Dionysii

Above in modern theca with intact seal is a piece of bone of Saint Dionysus the Areopagite, a convert of Saint Paul. This relic came from Metropolitan Theodosius of the Orthodox Church in America. The relics of Saint Dionysus can be found at the various Athonite monasteries in Greece.

Ex ossibus Ss. Petrus, Iona, Alexis

Also from Metropolitan Theodosius came the above treasure with pieces of bone belonging to the three Metropolitan-Saints Peter, Jonah, and Alexis of Moscow, Kiev and all Rus. The relics of Saint Peter and Saint Jonah can be found at Uspensky Sobor (the oldest cathedral at the Kremlin) in Moscow, Russian Federation, whereas those of Saint Alexis can be found at Epiphany Cathedral in Yelokhovo, also in Moscow.

Ex ossibus S. Gregorii Naz.

From the first priest came also a piece of bone belonging to Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (one of the Three Holy Hierarchs). His relics can be found at the Vatican and at the Patriarchal Cathedral of Saint George in Fener, Istanbul, Turkey.

© Marcelle Bartolo-Abela, aka the Bald Eagle.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Relics of the Apostles

Ex ossibus sanctissimorum Apostolorum

The Holy Apostles

Above, for your edification, are first class relics of the Twelve Apostles in a brass multi-reliquary put together and sealed by the Augustinians. All the relics are ex ossibus - that is, pieces of their bones. This reliquary was given to me by a Catholic priest.

Here is the list of the above relics:
  1. Peter, aka the Fisherman, son of John and brother of Andrew;
  2. Andrew, son of John and brother of Peter;
  3. James, aka the Elder, son of Zebedee and brother of John;
  4. John, aka the Beloved; son of Zebedee and brother of James. The only Apostle who did not run away for the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and who died a peaceful death;
  5. Philip;
  6. Bartholomew, aka Nathanael;
  7. Thomas, aka Didymus, the Doubter;
  8. Matthias, the tax collector son of Alpheus (Cleophas) and cousin of Christ (through Joseph);
  9. James, aka The Younger; son of Alpheus, brother of Matthias, Jude, and Simon; cousin of Christ;
  10. Jude Thaddeus, son of Alpheus, brother of James, Simon, and Jude; cousin of Christ;
  11. Simon, aka the Zealot; son of Alpheus, brother of James, Jude, and Matthias; cousin of Christ; and
  12. Barnabas, one of the 70 disciples, the companion of Paul and cousin of Mark the Evangelist (John Mark, also one of the 70; one of the servants at Cana and the young man who ran away naked when Christ was arrested in Gethsemane). The 'replacement' for Judas Iscariot.
The main relics of the Apostles can be found in the following locations:
  1. Peter - Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City State;
  2. Andrew - Cathedral of Saint Andrew, Patras, Greece;
  3. James the Elder - Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain;
  4. John - Basilica of Saint John, Ephesus, Turkey;
  5. Philip - Basilica Minore dei Santi Apostoli, Rome, Italy; and in the Hierapolis of Phrygia, Turkey;
  6. Bartholomew - Basilica di San Bartolomeo all'Isola, Rome, and at the Basilica di San Bartolomeo, Benevento, Italy; at the Cathedral of Frankfurt, Germany, and at Canterbury Cathedral, England;
  7. Thomas - Basilica di San Tommaso, Ortona, Italy; at San Thome Minor Basilica, Chennai, India; and on the island of Chios, Greece;
  8. Matthias - Cattedrale di Salerno, Salerno, Italy; and at the Saint Matthias Benedictine Abbey, Trier, Germany;
  9. James the Younger - Cathedral of Saint James, Jerusalem (seat of the Armenian Patriarchate), and at the Basilica Minore dei Santi Apostoli, Rome, Italy;
  10. Jude - Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City State, and at the National Shrine of Saint Jude, Chicago, Illinois;
  11. Simon - Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City State; and
  12. Barnabas - Monastery of Saint Barnabas, Salamis, Cyprus.

 © Marcelle Bartolo-Abela, aka the Bald Eagle.

Friday, July 7, 2017

More relics of Jesus Christ

Relics, Relics, Relics!

The First Relics
A woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped. Jesus then asked, "Who touched me?" While all were denying it, Peter said, "Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you." But Jesus said, "Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me." When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace" (Lk 8:43-48).
I loved icons, but had no particular fondness for holy relics as I was well aware of all the superstitious stories about them, despite one of my iconography teachers, a Maronite Catholic priest, being totally 'into relics.' Coming from a scientific background, with empiricism and hard data having been drilled into me, throughout my professional life, as being the god of all and above all, before reaching the ultimate god Who is God, relics seemed to me to be a bunch of hocus-pocus at par with those famous indulgences and reported multitude of sales thereof, which had provoked Martin Luther to nail his 99 theses to the church door. I was "not that kind of person" - and had no intention of ever becoming one.

In vain did the priest for years attempt, in multiple ways, to educate me about the tangible, but mystical, significance of holy relics. I refused to listen.

"Talk to me about icons," I would say, "but leave relics out of the equation."

Icons were okay, in particular the ones written in the Russian-Byzantine tradition, considered the pinnacle of the sacred art of iconography. Those were 'safe.' Our Father had given me both a love for icons and the opportunity to learn iconography with great teachers. Icons were also beautiful to look at. I could just sit or stand in front of them for hours, just staring at them. I love writing icons. But relics?

Oh, no.


No, no, no, no, no, no, no.


Yet Jesus Christ, like His Father, had a different idea about the whole situation and a great sense of humor.

Ask and You Shall Receive
When people sit and tell holy stories, God comes to listen (cf. Mal 3:16).
At the time, it was my practice to complain to Christ that our Father had given me a gift - iconography - as a token of His love for having returned to Him. But Christ had not given me anything, I thought. Coming from my background as a relatively newbie revert, I did not consider that at all fair - and I wanted something from each Person of the Holy Trinity.

"What," I thus kept asking Jesus day in, day out, "are You going to give me? Won't You give me something? Give me something [tangible] of Yours too!"

The beautiful handmade and hand-carved gilt bronze, Baroque multi-reliquary shown first below arrived soon after from Northern Italy. I stared at it really hard upon its arrival in my mailbox in an unmarked brown Jiffy bag (other than my address) and stamped Milano by the post office. No one had known about my request to Christ. I had never disclosed it to anyone.

More and more relics then started to arrive or be given to me in a slow, steady stream: from the East and from the West; from the North and from the South; the vast majority of them given by priests, Catholic and Orthodox. Single relics, multiple relics. Relics with original documentation, relics without documentation, but of known provenance. Relics of saints wanted, relics of saints unwanted; relics of saints known, relics of saints relatively unknown. And relics of saints abandoned.

My iconography teacher could scarce contain his delight.

"See? I told you," he crowed.

Never in my wildest had I dreamed that I would end up becoming a custodian of holy relics. But the crowning point was the arrival of some relics you shall be seeing in this and future posts for your edification, in addition to the ones of Our Lady and of the Cross of Christ that you already saw in my first two posts on the topic.

Relics of the Passion, Death and Burial of Jesus Christ
They are the most precious evidence of the Passion of our Lord (Amalric I).
Ex Praesepio, Ex Petra Unctionis, Ex Sepulchro
Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

The relics of Jesus Christ shown in the above reliquary consist of three small stones: one from the Grotto of the Nativity (Ex Praesepio), one from the Stone of the Anointing (Ex Petra Unctionis), and one from the Holy Sepulchre (Ex Sepulchro). The reliquary bears the Jerusalem cross of the Custodian of the Holy Land, the head of the Franciscan Friars, on its intact seal inside.

The Grotto where Christ was born can be found in the crypt of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank. The Stone of the Anointing was installed in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre to commemorate the spot upon which it is thought the Body of Christ had been prepared for burial by Saint Joseph of Arimathea and Saint Nicodemus. The tomb of Christ can be found in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre - Church of the Resurrection in the city of Jerusalem.

Ex Columna Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

The above relic with intact seal is a small piece from the Column of the Flagellation to which Christ had been tied for the Scourging at the Pillar (Ex Columna). This relic also came from Italy.

The Column was taken to the Church of the Apostles on top of Mount Zion after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. A large portion of the column can now be found at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. A smaller portion of it was translated from Jerusalem in 1223 by Giovanni, Cardinal di Colonna, the papal legate in the Holy Land during the Sixth Crusade, and installed in his titular church, the Basilica di Santa Prassede in Rome, Italy where it can still be found.

During the Middle Ages, there reportedly existed such devotion to the Column of Flagellation that the Vatican established the Feast of the Holy Pillar. This feast used to be held on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Ex Fune Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

This relic with intact seal consists of short, thick strands from one of the ropes with which Christ was tied to the Column of the Flagellation (Ex Fune). It too came from Italy and its original provenance was from the Patriarchs of Jerusalem.

De Purpurae Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

The above relic in modern theca is a small piece of the Purple Robe that Christ had been forced to wear on His shoulders during the Crowning with Thorns. This relic was originally part of a somewhat larger piece of the Robe in the possession of a Catholic priest, who opened up his own reliquary to give me a part of it. The theca bears the seal of the Augustinians.

Few pieces of the Robe are known to have remained to this day. One of these pieces can be found at the Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo in Spain. Another piece can be found at Saint Anthony's Chapel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

De Sindone Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

The priest also gave me this in the same manner. It too bears the seal of the Augustinians. The relic consists of two short strands from the Holy Shroud of Jesus Christ (the Shroud of Turin; De Sindone), in which Saint Joseph of Arimathea had wrapped His Body for burial in the Holy Sepulchre.

The Shroud was originally kept by the Byzantine emperors after having received it from the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, but it disappeared during the sack of Constantinople. In 1453, the Shroud was given to the House of Savoy and translated to Torino, Italy, in 1578 after a few intermediate placements. It was donated to the Holy See by the House of Savoy in 1983. A limited number of Shroud relics used to be given to bishops when the glass case in which it was kept, was opened for examination. The Shroud can now be found in the Cappella della Sacra Sindone at the Duomo di Torino - Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista in Turin, Italy.

© Marcelle Bartolo-Abela, aka the Bald Eagle.

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