Monday, 8/8/16

  1. Perfume Poured Out
  2. Sanguis martyrum semen ecclesiae
  3. The price of admission
  4. Huzzah, Vietnam!
  5. Ripping a page from our book

1

Some people, when they discover my deficiency, even wonder aloud if it might be preferable, this moving through the world without the burden of smelling it. They joke about how it would help make certain scatological realities—of marriage; of dog-ownership; of motherhood, when it comes—more bearable. They weigh the pros and cons: dead squirrels in an attic versus a grandmother’s pot roast; never experiencing the stench of a skunk, but never experiencing the scent of freshly baked cookies. You can enjoy New York City more fully without a sense of smell, I’ve been told, but you miss out on the joy of the ocean, the whiff of salt in the air.

Which is worth more, I wonder: avoiding disgust, or missing out on delight?

(Allison Grace Myers, Perfume Poured Out) I periodically commend Image journal to my readers, so it’s nice to have an essay to share. They’re hard to come by on the web.

2

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” — but that was in the premodern, not-yet-disenchanted world, in which superstition bred zealotry and privation made every civilizational encounter zero-sum. Now we have supposedly advanced beyond those divisions, and if violence or fanaticism still intrudes it’s because of technical and political failures — insufficient education, the misallocation of resources, insufficient dialogue, ideological manipulation — rather than deep theological divides. (Thus the pope’s insistence that the present jihadist wave has economic motivations but not genuinely religious ones.)

Such is the implicit perspective of post-Vatican II Catholicism — the church in which both Pope Francis and the murdered Father Hamel came of age. It assumes that liberal modernity represents a permanent change in human affairs, a kind of “coming of age” in which religion must come of age as well — putting away exclusivist ideas in order to flourish in community with all mankind. To talk too noisily about martyrdom in this context is to mistake today for yesterday, to risk a slippage back into the fruitless religious struggles of the past.

But our today is not actually quite what 1960s-era Catholicism imagined. The come-of-age church is, in the West, literally a dying church: As the French philosopher Pierre Manent noted, the scene of Father Hamel’s murder — “an almost empty church, two parishioners, three nuns, a very old priest” — vividly illustrates the condition of the faith in Western Europe.

(Ross Douthat, The Meaning of Martyrdom) More information on the death of Christianity in Western Europe here. Most astonishing:

No numbers are provided by the German episcopate about how many Catholics went to confession last year. However, a recent academic study of the priesthood in Germany showed that even among the clergy, more than half – 54 percent – go to confession only “once a year or less.”

Among pastoral assistants, a staggering 91 percent responded that they receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a year or less.

Despite these alarming numbers, the head of the bishops’ conference issued an upbeat appraisal of the situation ….

3

Environmental activist Bill McKibben is stalked by something like corporate paparazzi:

Merely having someone with a camera follow you somehow makes you feel as if you’re doing something wrong. My house is covered in solar panels, and I plug my car into a socket those panels power. But environmentalists also live in the world we’re trying to change: We take airplanes and rent buses for rallies; we make a living, shop for groceries. None of this should demand an apology. Changing the system, not perfecting our own lives, is the point. “Hypocrisy” is the price of admission in this battle.

(Emphasis added) “Hypocrisy” has also become the most clichéd charge of our era. No, make that “right-wing,” which is how McKibben identified his creepy shadows.

I’d wager, at fairly good odds, that these guys are mercenaries in the employ of oil interests, without any ideological skin in the game. What independently-wealthy person is so invested in the success of the Keystone Pipeline that they would coordinate a paparazzi flotilla of like-minded independently-wealthy folks with time on their hands to persecute an anti-pipeline activist with petty crap like this?

4

In the afternoon shooting event, history was made when Vinh Xuan Hoang won the men’s air pistol. It was the first gold medal in any sport for Vietnam. “Making this gold medal is a life memory, never forget this,” Hoang said. “Because first time making a gold medal for Vietnam.”

(NYT Sunday Olympic summary of Saturday’s events)

5

Some of our leftist attorneys general have stopped defending laws they don’t like. They at least say “constitutionally indefensible” or some such, which appears to be chattier than how they do it in England:

I’m re-reading Dickens’s Bleak House. In case it’s been a while since you’ve read the book, Bleak House features the endless case Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Chancery, which eventually, after decades, eats up the entire estate it’s about in court costs.

England is still at it, abusing court costs …

Don’t you uppity pro-lifers (or other conservatives) think you can use this private prosecution thing to try to get around our selective non-prosecution of our favored people.

(Jarndyce lives) I know that doesn’t cohere especially well. I just want to whet your appetite for a brief story that bodes to destroy my residual Anglophilia.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.