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Archives for May 2009

Dr. George Tiller has been shot and killed.

It’s complicated.

Thanks to the New Mexico Nurse for passing along this story about a reporter/advocate who was, um, forcibly removed from anywhere near where the President might eventually be.

“Lee said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that she wanted to hand Obama a letter urging him ‘to take a stand for traditional marriage.’ She said she asked a Secret Service agent to give the president her letter, but he refused and referred her to a White House staffer. Lee said she refused to give the staffer the letter. ‘I said, “I’ll take my chances if (the president) comes by here,”‘ said Lee, who identified herself as a Roman Catholic priestess who lives in Anaheim, Calif. ‘He became annoyed that I wouldn’t give him the letter.'”

To sum up: a Roman Catholic priestess from Anaheim who reports for the Georgia Informer got in trouble for trying to pass a note to the President asking him to oppose gay marriage.

From Raising Arizona:

“It’s a crazy world.”

“Someone oughtta sell tickets.”

“I’d buy one.”

Today in Porn, Theology of the Body Edition, Continued

Michael Waldstein and Janet Smith weigh in on West v. Schindler. Sounds like it’s time for a symposium.


So Gawker ran this photo of a bullfight protest in Spain. Dramatic, no? Now, just as a thought experiment, imagine it’s an abortion protest.

Because, you know, Catholic Artists.

Daniel Mitsui, aka Mr. Medieval, is offering prints of what he considers his finest work to date* (see above) for $135.

Now, just in case that seems dear, here’s an additional impetus. From Mitsui’s blog: “My son, Benedict Amadeus Mitsui, is now more than a week old…Michelle started to have regular contractions on the afternoon of Sunday, May 3rd. Her labor lasted seventy-two hours, the first sixty unmedicated. After a final three hours of hard pushing, the doctors declared that the baby was showing signs of distress, and that a caesarian section was the only remaining option. Thusly our son was born, just after 4 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, May 6th…It is likely, even with insurance my wife and I have, that the hospital bills for so difficult a delivery will destroy us financially. The one asset that I can hope to convert to money is artwork – and I have a lot of it. In the coming weeks, I will be posting several notices of sales on my existing artwork. If you have contacted me in the past about buying a drawing, only to find it too expensive, please contact me again. All prices are open to negotiation.”

Think of it as an NPR fundraiser without all the tedious puffery. “For your donation of just $135, you receive this top-notch modern religious illustration – AND you help to support quality Catholic artists.”

*Account of imagery here.

From The YouTube Music Video Archives: Django by the Modern Jazz Quartet

I’ve heard mention of the Modern Jazz Quartet over the years and finally got around to picking up “Django” – one of their masterpieces, according to fans. I like it; like the vibes especially. The song “Django” was composed by the group’s pianist, John Lewis. It is one of his best known compositions, written in memory of the French/Belgian gypsy guitarist, Django Reinhardt.

Today in Porn, Theology of the Body Edition

So Christopher West, who has built a career out of bringing John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to the masses, made it onto Nightline, and said some things which he says were taken out of context. In particular:

“I actually see very profound historical connections between Hugh Hefner and John Paul II” – in particular, for the way each attempted to rescue sex from Victorian prudishness. “I love Hugh Hefner. I really do. Why? Because I think I understand his ache. I think I understand his longing because I feel it myself. There is this yearning, this ache, this longing we all have for love, for union, for intimacy.”

Dr. Alice Von Hldebrand was not pleased, and spoke out against what she saw as West’s loose-cannon approach. The sanctification of sex, she argued, implies “a humility, a spirit of reverence, and totally avoiding the vulgarity that he uses in his language…I’m shocked and horrified by the words that he uses. His mere mention of Hugh Hefner is to my mind an abomination.”

Now, David L. Schindler, Provost/Dean and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family (and, if memory serves, something of a mentor to my sister-in-law Lisa), is weighing in:

“West presents a problem for the Church, not because he lacks orthodox intentions, but because his unquestionably orthodox intentions render his theology, a priori, all the more credible. His work often deflects people from the beauty and depth of what is the authentic meaning of John Paul II’s anthropology of love, and thus of what was wrought in and through the Second Vatican Council. It is scarcely the first time in the history of the Church that abundant good will did not suffice to make one’s theology and vision of reality altogether true.”

Schindler’s response is more nuanced and less shocked than Von Hildebrand’s, and includes bits like this: “In the end, West, in his disproportionate emphasis on sex, promotes a pansexualist tendency that ties all important human and indeed supernatural activity back to sex without the necessary dissimilitudo.”

I think it’s good to see this kind of back-and-forth – why, it’s almost like peer review! – and I look forward to West’s responses.

Today in Porn, Literary Edition

Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses while sitting on a child’s playground.

Lit Crit Hit of the Day: Robert Dale Parker’s "Sanctuary and Bad Taste"

Robert Dale Parker is a professor of English at the Univeristy of Illinois, whose work I’ve admired for some years. First it was an article on Elizabeth Bishop, and just today I came across this recent analysis of the Faulkner novel everybody loves to admit they like even as they admit how bad it is, but love it anyway. Or something like that. Parker explains it all better than I ever could:

And so this essay will be an exercise in taste and an exploration of the novel as an exercise in taste. Let me say right off: I think Sanctuary is in bad taste. I think it took bad taste to write it, and it takes bad taste to ask our students to read it. Perhaps nowhere is bad taste more deplored than in France, or so at least Americans like to believe. Perhaps that is also why no one appreciates bad taste more than the French, as Americans also like to believe, typically citing the French delight in the films of Jerry Lewis, but perhaps we could also cite the French taste for Faulkner on both counts, good taste and bad taste, and also good taste in bad taste.

Now I have to go read Sanctuary all over again.

The Long and Winding Road

Okay, last bit on the Gooch bio of O’Connor, I promise. But Gooch himself is kind of a fascinating case, and if I were a rich Catholic editor, I’d send someone to chat with him. The story in his acknowledgements would make a fine jumping-off point.

By the time O’Connor’s The Habit of Being came out in 1979, O’Connor was already Gooch’s “favorite fiction writer.” He was a Columbia grad student with a concentration in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and detected in O’Connor “the subtle tug of a spiritual quest in a dark universe animated by grace and significance.”

Gooch wrote to O’Connor’s longtime friend and supporter Sally Fitzgerald, who had edited The Habit of Being, and proposed writing O’Connor’s biography. Fitzgerald demurred, writing in reply that she was already working on a bio of her own. Disappointed, Gooch patiently waited for its publication. And waited. And then, “Sally Fitzgerald…died in June 2000, at the age of eighty-three, leaving behind an unfinished manuscript that has yet to appear.” (Another story worth investigating…)

Gooch writes, “As my personal test for deciding on projects has always been to write the book I want to read but cannot find on the shelf, I could think of no better choice” than the O’Connor biography.

But in the meantime, Gooch wrote a bunch of other books that he couldn’t find on the shelf. There were a bunch of gay-themed novels: Scary Kisses, The Golden Age of Promiscuity, and Zombie00. There were a couple of gay self-help books: Finding the Boyfriend Within: A Practical Guide for Tapping Into Your Own Source of Love, Happiness, and Respect and Dating the Greek Gods: Empowering Spiritual Messages on Sex and Love, Creativity and Wisdom. There was City Poet, his bio of gay poet Frank O’Hara. And of course, there was Godtalk: Travels in Spiritual America.

So yeah – it’s interesting to note that two of O’Connor’s dear friends were women who found women attractive, and it is not particularly surprising or bothersome that Gooch would choose to highlight such things. (As a Catholic, I would likely have focused more on her experience of faith and the development of her theology.) But I think Gooch would be happy to acknowledge that the subject of his most recent biography, were she alive today, would very likely find in his earlier material grist for her particular fictional mill. Spiritual meanderings? Finding the boyfriend within? Empowering messages on creativity? A story about a young man who seeks to become a zombie and subjects himself to the sexual sadism of various masters? This is pitching to O’Connor’s wheelhouse. I would be very interested to hear Gooch’s own thoughts on the matter.