30 July 2007

Crazy Van

Here are some photos of a van near my house which I thought was the whip of some nutsoid fundamentalist--however, upon further inspection, it is a satire/genuine political expression.

Back of van, Side of van.

22 July 2007

Tammy Faye is Dead + World's Most Stupid Fatwas

Dead dead dead.

* * * *

Stupid ass fatwas:

Denouncing the lovable Japanese cartoon characters as having “possessed the minds” of Saudi youngsters, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority banned Pokémon video games and cards in the spring of 2001. Not only do Saudi scholars believe that Pokémon encourages gambling, which is forbidden in Islam, but it is apparently a front for Israel as well. The fatwa’s authors claimed that Pokémon games include, “the Star of David, which everyone knows is connected to international Zionism and is Israel’s national emblem.” Religious authorities in the United Arab Emirates joined in, condemning the games for promoting evolution, “a Jewish-Darwinist theory that conflicts with the truth about humans and with Islamic principles,” but didn’t ban them outright. Even the Catholic Church in Mexico got into the act, calling Pokémon video games “demonic.”


Many Muslims believe that unmarried men and women should not work alone together—a stricture that can pose problems in today’s global economy. So one Islamic scholar came up with a novel solution: If a woman were to breast-feed her male colleague five times, the two could safely be alone together. “A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breast-fed,” he wrote in an opinion issued in May 2007. He based his reasoning—which was quickly and widely derided in the Egyptian press, in the parliament, and on Arabic-language talk shows—on stories from the Prophet Mohammed’s time in which, Atiya maintained, the practice occurred. Although Atiya headed the department dealing with the Prophet’s sayings, al-Azhar University’s higher authorities were not impressed. They suspended the iconoclastic scholar, and he subsequently recanted his ruling as a “bad interpretation of a particular case.

18 July 2007

Mormonism + Presidency

Romney's Not The First Mormon to Run for President.

Is the Pope catholic?

Is the Pope catholic (small c)?, by Martin Marty.

Islam and Latin America; Gay Marriage; & Hollywood Scientology

Islam and South America—

An interesting "Talk of the Nation" segment (fast forward to 27:00-28:35) featured a person who mentioned the rising number of converts to Islam in South America. I did not know about this. I did a little searching and came up with next to nothing, but here is what I did find:
Islam in Latin America", which is an extended quotation from Radical Islam in Latin America:

Latin America is home to a sizeable and diverse Muslim population with deep roots throughout the region. Most Muslims are of Arab descent, typically of Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian origin, although Christian Arabs from the Levant far outnumber their Muslim kin. There are also sizeable South and Southeast Asian Muslim communities with roots in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Indonesia in Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere in the Caribbean Basin.


As a result of intermarriage and conversion, Islam is becoming one of the fastest growing religions in Latin America. There is evidence to suggest that Muslim missionaries based in Spain and their regional affiliates are making inroads into disenfranchised and underserved indigenous communities that were once the target of evangelical Christian sects for conversion [6]. The competition between Muslim and Christian missionaries for prospective converts has even led to confrontation and violent clashes in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Spain’s al-Murabitun (The Almoravids, after the African Muslim dynasty that ruled North Africa and Spain in 11th and 12th century) is believed to be the most prolific missionary movement operating in Latin America [7]. The group is an international Sufi order founded in the 1970s by Sheikh Abdel Qader as-Sufi al-Murabit, a controversial Scottish Muslim convert born Ian Dallas. Although no hard evidence has surfaced tying the group to international terrorism, let alone al-Qaeda, Dallas has been accused of harboring extremist leanings.


The Murabitun’s ambitious efforts to gain adherents in Mexico include an unsuccessful attempt to forge an alliance with Subcommandante Marcos and his Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), following the group’s armed rebellion in Chiapas in 1994 [8]. The Murabitun are comprised predominantly of Spanish and European converts to Islam. There are also reports that Muslim missionaries are finding adherents among indigenous peoples in Bolivia and elsewhere in Latin America [9].

In an effort to win over converts in Latin America, the Murabtiun emphasize the cultural links between the Arab world and Latin America through Spain’s Moorish heritage. In doing so, the Murabitun and like-minded movements advocate a collective reversion to Islam, which in their view signifies a return to the region’s true heritage, as opposed to what many see as conversion to the Muslim faith. In this sense, Islam not only represents an alternative to the colonial traditions imposed on the indigenous and mestizo peoples of Latin America, namely the Roman Catholic Church, but is also a nativist tradition that has been suppressed. The Murabitun also claim that Islam is not tainted by European and Western colonialism and imperialism, but instead serves as a remedy for the oppression and destruction brought about by the Spanish conquest.


There is no evidence to suggest that the recent trend toward conversion to Islam in Latin America stems from a turn to political and religious radicalism. On the contrary, most Muslim converts see Islam as a vehicle for reasserting their identity. They also see conversion as a form of social and political protest in societies where they are marginalized and experience discrimination [10]. In this context, it is no surprise that groups such as the Murabitun, with their message of social, political, and cultural empowerment, are making inroads into disenfranchised and impoverished indigenous communities. The group also supports local education, social welfare, and other projects that include Arabic language instruction and the publication of the Qur’an in Spanish and other local languages.

According to my own calculations from ARDA data approximates:
--Muslim pop. in South America: 8,565,675.53
--Total pop. in South America: 384,070,139
--Percentage of total pop. of South America: 2.23%

* * * *

Even though there is no real data on the rate of conversion and total Muslim population available beyond the last century; however, we can get a general sense of the growth of Islam:
-- href="http://www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.htm">2.9% growth globally (U.S. Center for World Mission, 1997)
--...the proportion of Muslims in the world will continue to increase dramatically, amounting to 20 percent of the world's population about the turn of the century, surpassing the number of Christians some years later, and probably accounting for about 30 percent of the world's population by 2025." (Samuel Huntington...Todd Johnson says 20.2% of world pop. and 22.6% by 2200)
--1.226 million (19% of world pop.) and growing
--A more in-depth look

* * * *

So it seems that we have some basis to say that Islam has been having a growth spurt as of late. Why? I have a totally unsubstantiated theory...don't take it seriously

The calling into question of traditional values, of objectivity, of absolute truth (moral and otherwise) are hallmarks of modernity. Living in this environment, one has two general choices: go with it or rebel.

It's the rebellion I want to talk about. There are rebels of all stripes and colors, but perhaps the attraction of Islam (and Evangelicalism) is the potent combination of intense religious emotion and solid, seemingly-objective, non-negotiable rules. This heady brew is provided to varying extents in both Islam and charismatic Christianity, which might explain the growth of both in Latin America. Even if you take the rules of the Catholic Church seriously, you just might not feel an emotional connection at Mass. In Chiapas (and other regions?) conversion to Islam is many times a statement about one's identity.

Islam's modernity question (BBC).

Gay Marriage—

American opinion on gay marriage and the positions among people and governments in Europe.

Mormons and Politics—

BeliefWatch: Mormons (Newsweek):
As a rule, Mormons tend to be white, conservative and Republican—and as obedient to established authority as any group out there—but a close look reveals cracks in that glossy surface. There's Harry Reid, of course, the Mormon convert and vocal leader of the Senate Democrats. And there's Orrin Hatch, conservative, Republican and Mormon to the core—except that he supports embryonic-stem-cell research, an issue upon which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official stance but which President George W. Bush opposes. Finally, there's Rocky Anderson, the Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City. A lapsed Mormon—he grew up in an LDS family—Anderson has had to walk a fine line. In Salt Lake, the headquarters of the Latter-day Saints, he has had to be moderate enough attract 20 percent of the LDS vote to win and keep his job. Now, it seems, he's had enough of the high-wire act. This spring, Anderson began calling for the impeachment of President Bush, and more recently he started to launch grenades at his former friend and current presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

"There is a culture of obedience in this country, but it's probably no more evident than in most parts of Utah," Anderson told NEWSWEEK in an interview. "That's why we've seen the highest approval ratings here for this entirely corrupt, disastrous presidency." As for Romney, his "opposition to abortion and stem-cell research is a very different Mitt Romney than the one who ran for governor of Massachusetts. I felt that Mitt Romney was a man who could really bring people together in a nonpartisan fashion, who would always stand up for the highest ideals and not worry about the polls ... I can only think this is a man who's caving to what his handlers want him to say."

As a Democrat and former Mormon, Anderson does not represent LDS views. But political scientists at Brigham Young University do say there's a surprising diversity among LDS voters. For starters, Mormons tend to vote regionally: more liberal in Blue States and more conservative in the Red States. And though they are almost universally socially conservative, they are much less predictable on the question of big government versus small government, for example, which means they're up for grabs on issues like health care. Jeff Fox, a researcher at BYU, has studied Mormon voting patterns. Most Mormons, he says, have supported the War on Terror, but "I for one opposed it completely." Rocky Anderson may not be an LDS poster boy, but in some small circles, Mitt Romney isn't either.

Mormons in Congress not Flocking to Romney's Side (Pew Forum).


An article in the N.Y Times Magazine about Hollywood and Scientology:
Giovanni Ribisi called me. Burt Reynolds asked me to call him at home. The director Joel Schumacher called me from Romania between takes for his next movie. Anne Archer and I played phone tag for two weeks. A-list, B-list, stars of stage, stars of screen, they were all eager to talk. The Tony winners John Glover and Tyne Daly. Edie McClurg, the dippy secretary in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” David Carradine.

Put the word on the street that you’re writing about Milton Katselas, and every student he has ever had will want to tell you about the best acting teacher in the world, the man who took them from fresh-faced, straight-off-the-plane-at-LAX ingénues looking for work — commercials; God willing, someday a sitcom — to being real artists. They’ll tell you about how he saved them from the failings of the artist’s personality, like narcissism and drug addiction, and set them aright. They were born with the talent, but he gave them careers.

But there are dissenters too. Students have left Katselas’s school, the Beverly Hills Playhouse, because of the unspoken pressure they felt to join the Church of Scientology, the controversial religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. Nobody ever told them to join, but they could not ignore how many of their classmates and teachers were Scientologists. Or the fact that Milton Katselas, the master himself, credits Hubbard for much of his success in life. And the assorted weirdness: one of Katselas’s students works a day job at the Scientology Celebrity Centre, where Tom Cruise and John Travolta study, and one zealous television star left the playhouse because she said she believed that Katselas wasn’t committed enough to Scientology.

Before trying to metabolize this strange cocktail of Hollywood, dreams both deferred and achieved, and Scientology, consider the very sincere professions of faith in a bearded, baritone septuagenarian with a Mediterranean temper who began as a student of Lee Strasberg and became the teacher of Ribisi, Daly and Carradine; of Michelle Pfeiffer, Tom Selleck, Tony Danza, Priscilla Presley, Patrick Swayze, Cheryl Ladd and hundreds more.

Richard Lawson, a Katselas student and occasional Scientologist, who now teaches at the playhouse, says that Katselas’s teaching helped him cheat death in 1992 when his plane from LaGuardia crashed in Flushing Bay and he was submerged underwater. “I just got this inspiration to overcome it, to fight with everything I had to get out,” Lawson told a reporter in 1998. “One of the things I attribute that to is the teachings of Milton.” Anne Archer, who discovered Scientology at the playhouse nearly 30 years ago, says, “I have seen performances sometimes in that class that are so brilliant that they’re better than anything I have seen on the stage or film.” Her husband, the producer Terry Jastrow — also a Scientologist — says that Katselas changed the texture of his daily existence: “I go out in the world and look at human behavior now. I see a woman or man interacting with a saleslady, and I see the artistry in it. Life is an endless unspooling of art, of acting, of painting, of architecture. And where did I learn that? From Milton.”

Most people in the Los Angeles acting community believe that the Beverly Hills Playhouse is a serious conservatory where actors train with a master teacher, while others think it’s a recruitment center for Scientology. I wondered if it might be both. What if the playhouse was a serious conservatory, and Katselas a master teacher, not in spite of Scientology but because of it?

I first attended Katselas’s weekly master class on a Saturday morning in April. I took my seat in his small theater on South Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills well before the 9:30 start time. I was stargazing — Justina Machado from “Six Feet Under” was there; Beth Grant from “Little Miss Sunshine” was there — when promptly at 9:30 the class rose to its feet in a standing ovation. Katselas had entered by the door near stage left, and he was proceeding slowly, with the shuffle of a man vigorous but in his 70s, to his chair on a landing a few rows up from stage right, offering small, regal waves as he went. Nobody sat until he did.

“What is this, Easter?” he asked.

“Passover,” several students answered at once.

“What is this class, 82 percent Jewish — the rest goyim?” People laughed, and at that the lights dimmed, then came up, and a scene began.

And one thing very quickly became clear: Milton Katselas is an uncommonly good teacher.

In the first scene, Jack Betts, whom I later placed as the judge in “Office Space,” played the actor John Barrymore, from the one-man show “Barrymore,” made famous on Broadway by Christopher Plummer. I thought that Betts captured both the dissolution and the grandeur of a great man in his pickled decline, but after the scene, when Betts sat at the edge of the stage to receive his critique, Katselas made clear how much better the performance could have been.

A Katselas critique is a respectful dialogue; he is never mean, but he is challenging. Katselas wanted Betts to find the quieter notes in Barrymore. One place to start, he thought, might be in the song with which the scene begins: Barrymore singing “I’ve Got a Girl in Kalamazoo.” As Betts had sung it, the song was brassy, vaudevillelike: “A! B! C! D! E! F! G! H! I got a gal in KAL-amazoo!” Katselas had him sing it over again, several times, suggesting that he turn the final syllable, the zoo, into a drunken, slurred, tossed-off note of disdain. After several more takes of the song, Katselas wasn’t satisfied, but it seemed that Betts was getting there. The Barrymore that emerged at the end of 45 minutes was stranger, sadder, perhaps a bit louche, less of a stereotype and altogether more believable than what Betts had delivered at the beginning of class.

In many ways Katselas embodies what we expect from the acting pedagogue. He has a sexual, dangerous edge — I wasn’t shocked when he confessed that he had dated several of his students. He looks unkempt, but deliberately so, very bohemian. He swears a lot, as if perpetually burdened by his inability to wring better performances from his students. But although he believes in sex and danger and anger, Katselas never sounds like a Freudian in search of those emotions, and in this regard he breaks the stereotype.

The great American acting teachers, like Strasberg and Stella Adler, have typically insisted that there is a role for an actor’s emotional history in his or her performance. In various versions of Strasberg’s “Method,” the actor uses “sense memory” or “affective memory” to relive actual experiences — the death of a parent, an episode of sexual violence, the birth of a child — to summon tears, horror, elation or some other emotion for the character. Acting classes can thus resemble talk therapy, as actors, lost in the moment, weep, scream or cackle. But Katselas is adamant that he doesn’t care what his students have been through. Digging into the past might work for some students, and as an avowed pragmatist Katselas tells actors to use whatever works. But he mostly gives actors bits of physical direction rather than asking probing questions about their motivation. In one scene, he had two lovers touch their foreheads together, injecting a note of true intimacy into what had been pure farce; in another, he told an angry junkie to clench his hair in his fists and yank, and all of a sudden the actor found the rage that had been missing from his performance.

“The purpose of the acting art is not to bring about therapy,” Katselas told me later. “One taps their own experience of love or violence and tries to pull from it whatever is possible in terms of an association or understanding, but there is also the imagination and the character and the writing. The personal thing is always very strong and can be created, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you go into the traumas of your life in order to get it.”

Is this teaching Scientology? Not at all. But it happens to be quite consonant with Scientology, which is famous for its opposition to psychiatry and psychotherapy. (A group founded by the Church of Scientology operates a museum in Hollywood called Psychiatry: An Industry of Death.) The only time I heard Katselas quote L. Ron Hubbard, the Scientology founder, in class, he was oblique about it. Four students had just performed a scene in which two college students, about to have a one-night stand, are suddenly, in an absurdist, “Oleanna”-like twist, interrupted by lawyers who want them to agree in advance how far their petting may go. In his critique of the scene, Katselas railed against the legal profession: he wanted the actors to understand that this was more than a funny scene; it was also an indictment of how litigiousness, as well as the fear of it, separates us from our desires. Lawyers are just one group to whom Americans give over their autonomy, and these undergrads, having let the lawyers in, needed to push them back out and take responsibility for their own actions. It is not therapy that reunites us with our authentic selves but willpower, properly directed. “A cat that I study says you are responsible for the condition you are in,” Katselas told the room. “Period.”

That “cat” is Hubbard. But Katselas never says so, and it’s not clear that he ought to. In the context of the scene critique, Hubbard’s seems a germane aphorism, one that might help the actors get a better feel for the shifting alliances onstage. In other arts, it’s easy to gauge proficiency, if not genius. We know what technically correct music sounds like, and writers have rules of grammar and syntax to follow or to tactfully violate. But what makes a good acting performance? How do you disappear into a character? In addition to being the most ineffable of arts, acting depends on extraneous accidents of fate, like the right look. And it’s the only art that you can’t master alone; there’s not much market for soliloquies. With all those uncertainties, a fine performance, let alone a paycheck for it, can seem terrifyingly elusive. It must be the rare actor who can dismiss supernatural aids, whether Scientology or superstitious incantations like “Break a leg,” without a slight loss of nerve.

hen David Carradine met Milton Katselas at an audition in the mid-1960s, there were 50 people sitting in the back rows of the theater, just watching Katselas watch actors. “He already had a cult fame, these followers who were like disciples,” Carradine says. “He was the hot young director. I read the play, and I really hated it, but I went to the audition anyway.” Katselas was barely 30 years old.

Born to Greek immigrants in Pittsburgh in 1933, Katselas moved to New York straight after graduating from the Carnegie Institute (now Carnegie Mellon). There was no period of ignominy, no nights of waiting tables. He had seeded the town for his arrival. “I told the guy at Carnegie that within a week, I’d be working with Kazan and I’d be studying with Strasberg,” Katselas told me last spring when we met at his house in West Hollywood. “Prior to that, when I was still in university, I was walking in the streets of New York, just visiting over holiday, and I saw Kazan, and I said to a guy, ‘Is that Kazan?’ and he said, ‘Yeah.’ ” Elia Kazan was fast becoming a legend. He directed “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1951; “On the Waterfront” would come in 1954 and “East of Eden” the year after. “I ran after him; I lost him; I found him; he went up in a building,” Katselas said. “I had my back to the building, looking away from the building. Then this guy taps me on the back, says, ‘What do you want?’ It’s Kazan. He went up, knew that I was chasing him. We spoke a little bit in Greek. I told him I was in university. He says: ‘When you come from university, look me up. I’ll give you a job.’ ” When Katselas arrived in New York, Kazan kept his promise and hired him as his gofer during the Broadway run of “Tea and Sympathy.”

The charmed life got more charmed. Strasberg let Katselas into his class at the Actors Studio. Kazan sent his young Turk — or, rather, Greek — to the stage director Joseph Anthony, who hired him. Katselas talked himself into a job with Joshua Logan, the great director of movies like “Picnic” and “Bus Stop.” Katselas began teaching and directing, and in 1960, at Edward Albee’s request, he directed the American premiere of “The Zoo Story” for the Provincetown Playhouse. His greatest success, though, was “Butterflies Are Free,” a timely play about a blind Manhattanite who falls for a free-spirited hippie, which opened in 1969 and ran for more than 1,000 performances. Blythe Danner won a Tony for her performance, and Katselas was nominated for his direction. In the early 1970s, Katselas moved to California to direct “40 Carats” with Liv Ullmann and the film version of “Butterflies Are Free,” in which Goldie Hawn took Danner’s role.

Katselas never made it back to New York to live. In his telling, his migration sounds like an inevitable progression: Hollywood beckoned; he began teaching in California; it agreed with him. The truth is somewhat more complicated: New York was where Katselas succumbed to, then defeated, an addiction to methamphetamines; it’s where his first marriage, to an alcoholic, began to fail. California must have represented an escape and a fresh start. In 1983, he returned East to direct “Private Lives” with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton but was fired during the tryouts before the show reached New York. “I got along great with Burton, and he told me I was one of the few directors he ever accepted notes from,” Katselas says. “But I didn’t get along with Elizabeth, and I’d rather not go into why.” He never worked on the East Coast again.

+In California, Katselas met L. Ron Hubbard, the science-fiction writer and amateur scientist whose teachings form the basis of Scientology. Scientology promises its adherents the ability to become “clear,” ridding themselves of negative memories, or “engrams,” that retard their abilities. After becoming clear, they can proceed up “the bridge to total freedom,” realizing their full potential as “thetans,” spirits trapped in bodies. One mechanism of advancement is “auditing,” in which the Scientologist, in conversation with a church “auditor” and hooked up to a machine called an “E-meter,” deletes engrams; there are also church classes like “Personal Efficiency” and “Life Repair.” As a Scientologist proceeds “up the bridge,” he can gain access to esoteric knowledge, like how we thetans got here. Scientology, it has been widely reported, teaches that 75 million years ago the evil alien Xenu solved galactic overpopulation by dumping 13.5 trillion beings in volcanoes on Earth, where they were vaporized, scattering their souls. (John Carmichael, the president of the Church of Scientology of New York, told me, “That’s not what we believe.” He refused to discuss the church’s esoteric teachings, though he did claim that Scientology’s beliefs about the origins of the universe and mankind “follow the much older tradition of Eastern religion dating back to the Vedic hymns.”)

What most Americans know of Scientology is the alien myth, parodied on a famous “South Park” episode; or the German government’s view that Scientology is less a religion than a cult with totalitarian overtones; or the church’s winning fight for tax-exempt status despite the fees it charges, which for many courses are thousands of dollars; or reports in The Times and elsewhere that while battling with the I.R.S., church lawyers hired private investigators to find dirt on federal employees. Millions are also aware of the religion’s celebrity practitioners, like John Travolta, Isaac Hayes and Beck. But for most people who dabble in Scientology, including dozens of Beverly Hills Playhouse students, the religion boils down to two rather prosaic practices. There is the auditing, which, despite Scientologists’ angry denials, is a lot like the psychotherapy they abhor, and there are the classroom teachings. In class, Scientologists learn Hubbard wisdom like “What’s true is what’s true for you” and “Understanding is composed of affinity, reality and communication,” as well as practical advice about the importance of working hard, not blaming others and communicating clearly. Scientology is a quintessentially American mix of prosperity gospel, grandiose hopes for technology, bizarre New Age mythology and useful self-help nostrums.

Katselas was introduced to Scientology in 1965 and has been studying it, off and on, ever since. He has achieved the state of clear, and gone well beyond it; he is, he told me, an Operating Thetan, Level 5, or O.T. V. According to “What Is Scientology?” published by the church, being an Operating Thetan means that you “can handle things and exist without physical support and assistance. . . . It doesn’t mean one becomes God. It means one becomes wholly oneself.” But despite his advanced level of Scientology training, only “on five or six occasions,” Katselas says, has he urged a student to explore Scientology.

Others confirmed that Katselas does not proselytize. “I didn’t know he was a Scientologist until four days ago,” says Burt Reynolds, who has been a guest teacher at the playhouse. “The Scientologists I know, the actors I know, practically want to drag me there. He’s never brought it up.” Katselas’s devotion to Hubbard notwithstanding — he keeps a picture of L.R.H., as Scientologists call him, on a table in his office — he makes rather modest claims for Scientology. “It certainly helped me,” he says. “It helped me as a painter. I started doing a lot of painting, did the Scientology, and it opened up my visual sense. And it helped me in communication, endlessly, and that’s a vital thing in teaching or directing.”

It was in precisely those two areas, painting and communication, in which I thought I could divine Scientology’s influence. Katselas thinks highly of himself as a visual artist. He maintains his own studio, employs a full-time assistant who helps with his sculpture and mixed-media works and has had a handful of shows (three in a gallery that he owns). And although he has no architectural training, he has collaborated with a local architect, offering ideas for the design of two houses in the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles; one of the houses, it so happens, was purchased by Apl.de.Ap, one of the singers for the Black Eyed Peas. Katselas does not do the blueprints for the houses he “designs,” just as he does not do all the technical work for his art. Katselas has no reputation among critics of painting or architecture. But he seems to have a strong belief in the multifarious nature of his genius — he eagerly showed me the houses he has helped build and gave me a long tour of his art studio — and that is typical of Scientologists, who are taught to think of their potential as limitless.

As for communication, Katselas is, like Hubbard, fairly obsessed with the idea that if only people communicated better, the world’s problems would disappear. Katselas told me that if he sat down the warring parties in Israel, he could broker a truce — a comment that nicely marries Scientology’s human-potential hubris and its faith in communication as the greatest virtue. Katselas also shares Scientologists’ admirable habit of looking words up in dictionaries. Every teacher at the playhouse has a dictionary handy and has actors learn words they don’t know, and Katselas uses numerous dictionary definitions in “Dreams Into Action,” the self-help book he published in 1996 and hawked on “Oprah.” The book acknowledges Hubbard “for his wisdom, writings and inspiration” and carries blurbs from, incongruously, Mario Cuomo and Molly Yard, the former president of the National Organization for Women.

It might seem odd, then, that Katselas and the Scientologists have been somewhat at odds. I asked Katselas if it was true that the actress Jenna Elfman left the playhouse because she found him insufficiently committed to the church. He confirmed the rumor, hesitantly. “In a certain way, yes,” he said. “I don’t know what really occurred there. She was going to be fully involved with Scientology at a certain point in her life. I don’t know if that crept back in.” (Gary Grossman, who has worked at the playhouse for more than 20 years, also said he thought that Elfman wanted to move Katselas “up the bridge” in Scientology, though he added that “the only ones that would know would be Milton and Jenna.” Elfman never returned calls that I made to her publicist.) “But I’ve got to do what I’m going to do,” Katselas continued, “and I’m not going to do it because somebody tells me I should do it, and it doesn’t matter what somebody else thinks is right.”

Katselas’s stubbornness, and his sheer ego, are the keys to understanding his relationship to Scientology. He takes what he can from the teachings, but he can be rather contemptuous of the church. “I know [Hubbard] made a statement once that Scientology is not the people in it,” Katselas said. “Scientology is a technology that he’s developed that is really powerful, and these artists respond to it because it cleans up certain things that they’ve looking to or that they’re dealing with, and that helps them in their quest or in their way, and there’s no doubt of that.” But, he added: “I don’t go to parties, I don’t go to Scientology events. I just don’t do it. And they’re not enthralled with me because of that.” Katselas agreed that some Scientologists were “zealots,” by which he might have meant that for them Scientology was primary, whereas for Katselas Scientology is instrumental. This is a man, after all, who had the chutzpah to chase down Elia Kazan on the street and ask for a job. Scientology didn’t convince Milton that he had unlimited potential; it just confirmed what he already suspected.

+Katselas was born with the ego and the talent, but Adam Donshik wasn’t. Donshik, who first told me about Katselas three summers ago, is an old high-school classmate of mine. We were part of the small theater crowd, and we acted together in “Guys and Dolls” and “Gypsy.” He had a lovely voice and was always cast in the musicals, but he was an indifferent actor. We hadn’t spoken for more than 10 years when in 2003 I flipped to the ABC drama “Threat Matrix” and saw him playing a terrorist. Eight months later, I was in Beverly Hills on an assignment, and we met for a drink. His hair was a little thinner, but he looked great, all tan and muscled. The West Coast suited him. The career was going great, he said. Life was going great. “You want to know why?” he asked. “Scientology. I’ve become a Scientologist!” He smiled as if to acknowledge the improbability of this Jewish kid from New England finding Scientology. He had gotten involved through friends at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, where he studied.

Donshik now works for the playhouse as an admission interviewer, acting in TV series on the side. Of a total playhouse payroll of about a dozen teachers, interviewers and assistants, nearly all, I discovered, had at least dabbled in Scientology. Some, like Allen Barton, who is executive director of the school, are committed Scientologists; others, like Rick Podell and Gary Grossman (who starred with Tom Hanks in “Bachelor Party”), have taken just one class and do not consider themselves Scientologists. Jocelyn Jones and Gary Imhoff, former faculty members, are Scientologists, as is Jeffrey Tambor, an actor best known as the imprisoned patriarch George Bluth Sr. on “Arrested Development” and who was Katselas’s heir apparent until he abruptly quit the faculty several years ago. (Katselas blamed Tambor’s wife: “I think she felt there was a tension between her and me and the school, and I think Jeffrey was caught in the middle of it.”)

Of the students, I easily located a dozen who are Scientologists, and based on interviews, I concluded there are probably several dozen more in the current student body of 500. Like their teachers, some students are devout while others indulge a mild curiosity and then drop off. “I went down and took a couple of classes,” David Carradine said. “I’m no kind of Scientologist, but I’ve been around it enough to know it’s a very intelligent thing.” This being Hollywood, some students, like Giovanni Ribisi, were Scientologists before they came to the playhouse.

Of course, other students worry less about how Scientology will help their acting than how it will help their careers; there’s a widespread perception in Hollywood that Scientology is a networking tool. People notice that, say, two stars of “My Name Is Earl,” Jason Lee and Ethan Suplee, are Scientologists; that the Scientologist Kirstie Alley did a guest appearance on Elfman’s “Dharma and Greg”; that Ribisi has popped up on “My Name Is Earl.” “I knew someone at the playhouse who joined Scientology because she thought it would help her career,” one agent told me. “She thought Jenna Elfman would be her best friend.” And actors who study at the Celebrity Centre on Franklin Avenue do bump into the stars, chat with them, even have lunch with them at the restaurant. How bad could that be for a career?

All religious communities can be networks for business contacts, but Scientology makes a special pitch to celebrities, and church literature is filled with testimonials from Tom Cruise, John Travolta and other stars. According to a pamphlet I was given at the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood (there are eight Celebrity Centres, in cities from Paris to Munich to Nashville), the center was founded in 1969 “to take care of those who entertain, fashion and take care of the world . . . the artists, the leaders of industry, politicians, sports figures and the like.” As a very successful hack sci-fi writer, Hubbard was something of a junior-varsity celebrity himself, and he had great esteem for his betters. “Hollywood makes a picture which strikes the public fancy, and tomorrow we have girls made up like a star walking along the streets of the small towns of America,” Hubbard once wrote. “A culture is only as great as its dreams, and its dreams are dreamed by artists.”

Of course, the majority of those who study at Celebrity Centres are not actual celebrities, and for many of them the chance to be valued for their art alongside more successful peers, the Cruises and the Travoltas, must be salubrious for the ego. At the centers, the agent can join the same exclusive club as his client, the editor as his writer. And all of them can bask in a theology that holds, again to quote Hubbard, that “one of the greatest single moves which could be made to advance and vitalize a culture such as America would be to free, completely, the artist from all taxes and similar oppressions.”

But if a few students have appreciated the playhouse for its connections to Scientology, others have left alienated. “I have clients who left there because of all the Scientology,” one longtime Hollywood agent told me. Terrell Clayton, who had a recurring role on “Six Feet Under” and studied at the playhouse for five years, says that the pressure to study Scientology is subtle. “It’s not like while you’re being critiqued they say you need to join Scientology,” he says. “It’s small conversations you might have with colleagues or fellow students.” He now studies with Ivana Chubbuck, a highly regarded teacher who wrote “The Power of the Actor.” Chubbuck has kind words for Katselas. “It seems when people come from his studio to work with me, they seem to be pretty good actors, so he must be doing something right,” she says. “In terms of how he operates as a Scientologist or a human being, I would be remiss in saying something based on rumor or hearsay.”

And then Chubbuck told me something unexpected and clarifying: “If he’s putting something else he does in his teaching, if it works, it works.” In other words, even if he were dispensing Scientology-flavored pedagogy, even if his example did lead some young actors to the Celebrity Centre to spend their dollars — earned at union scale, working bit parts in Lifetime movies — on classes meant to bring about a state of clear, that might not be a bad thing, not if it helped their art.

Katselas is adamant that he does not want a cult around himself. “It worries me,” he said when I mentioned that his students seem to worship him. But he collects disciples. His personal chef, art assistant and longtime girlfriend are all students or former students (the latter two have studied Scientology). He knows what’s best for others too: he threatened to fire his art assistant, Richard Shirley, unless Shirley lost weight. (“He’s in my life; it’s very much my business,” Katselas said. “Everything is everybody’s business. Our fellows are our responsibility.”) And he cultivates the image of a man with almost magical powers. “Dreams Into Action,” his motivational book, is full of promises for future greatness, if only people would heed his words. He has style: he drove me around in a restored vintage Mercedes. He’s an entrepreneur, a real estate investor, even a partner in Skylight Books, one of L.A.’s best independent bookstores. He once got drunk with the sculptor David Smith. He has the wit of Thurber, the charm of Zorba. According to one Scientology text, man “is not only able to solve his own problems, accomplish his goals and gain lasting happiness, but also to achieve new states of awareness he may never have dreamed possible.” Katselas seems to have achieved such a state — what student could be blamed for wanting to drink his elixir?

On my last day in Los Angeles, I saw Adam Donshik play Hamlet in class. It was the scene in which he kills Polonius and fights with his mother. Katselas wasn’t impressed — his critique was barbed — but Adam was worlds better than in high school. Even accounting for age and maturity, something else had intervened. An unusual teacher had given Adam both a religion and a talent for acting. If the two were somehow inseparable, it might not pay to try to pull them apart. I could mock Adam for following the man or for following the faith. But perhaps it would be wiser to simply watch him act.

15 July 2007

Pornista to Priest + Los Angeles Diocese's Potential Sex Settlement

Sex, sex, and more sex is the topic of discussion today.

Two pieces from the New York Times: Man of the Flesh to Man of the Cloth and $660 Million Deal Set in Abuse Cases in Los Angeles.

Porn piece excerpts:

After 30 years of sowing the wildest of oats, Mr. Boyer, 54, has searched his soul and chosen, to the surprise of family and colleagues, to seek a priesthood in the Episcopal Church.


The psychic distance, however, has been vast. In January, the lumbering 6-foot-3 performer was greeting fans on the red carpet of the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas, along with the superstars of pornography like Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy.

In June, he was carrying the Holy Bible and a text titled “Gospel Light” to a live Internet show where he preached on the relative evils of pornography. “Is pornography a sin?” he asked on the show, which is aimed at people in the sex industry. “Probably. Definitely,” he answered, a response that reflected his own ambivalence as much as a desire not to alienate his audience. “So is eating carrot cake until you’re sick to your stomach,” he continued. “And so is punching somebody in the face. That’s a sin.”


He has tired of performing in sex movies, but even now doesn’t condemn it. “Not one time did Jesus refer to pornography, or homosexuality,” he observed on the Internet show, which he began as a co-host in May. “Jesus could have commented. He didn’t.”


“When I got into porn,” Mr. Boyer said, “everyone in the business was kind to each other, loved each other, came together in crisis. It wasn’t some 1970s kumbaya, but people generally cared. Now you see devil signs, Satanism and horns everywhere.” He gestured at a passer-by with “Hail Satan” on his T-shirt. “That’s disturbing me a lot,” he said. “I see more of an evil influence in the business.”

He told anecdotes of being asked by directors to defile the flag or the Koran in sex scenes; he has resisted what he sees as a trend to choke or hit women during intercourse, or use what he considers degrading language.

Neil Malamuth, a psychology and communications professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies the effects of pornography, said a niche of the sex industry has become more extreme and even violent, though that was not true for the entire business.


The process to priesthood will take several years. Mr. Boyer began by being confirmed in the Episcopal Church this year. He is undergoing training to become a deacon, which will allow him to conduct most aspects of ministering short of the sacraments. To become a priest, he must study in a seminary for approximately two years and his candidacy must be approved by the diocesan bishop.

J. Jon Bruno, bishop for the Los Angeles Diocese, said Mr. Boyer’s path to the priesthood would not be precluded by who he was. “I wouldn’t put up an immediate impediment because of someone’s past life,” he said. “There’s no exclusion in the gospel for anybody.”

From the sexual abuse article:

Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles apologized this afternoon to more than 500 people who say they were abused by Roman Catholic clergy members, as the archdiocese confirmed that it would pay $660 million to settle their lawsuits against it.

The settlement, if approved by a judge, would be by far the largest payout made by any single diocese since the clergy sexual abuse scandals first became public in Boston in 2002. It would dwarf the $85 million paid for 552 claims by the Archdiocese of Boston.


Steven Sanchez, a 47-year old financial adviser who is one of the plaintiffs in the case was set to begin on Monday, said he had been girding himself to testify about the abuse he suffered when he was 9 or 10 years old, and he said he wanted to see church officials called to account in a courtroom.

Asked before the settlement was disclosed what he would do with any money he might receive, Mr. Sanchez said simply, “Where can you take that check and cash it that will make you 10 years old again?”

Cardinal Mahony announced in May that, to raise money for a settlement, the archdiocese would sell its administrative building on Wilshire Boulevard and might sell about 50 other church properties that were not being used by parishes or schools.

Reactions to Benedict's Motu Proprio

Pope's latest moves setting church apart (Chicago Tribune):


This is a surge in the so-called "Restoration" that has been rumbling on for 20 years -- an effort to return the church to what it once was. And if this means less dialogue among Christians and more dropouts from the Catholic Church, so be it.

This push for Restoration, its connection with the Latin mass and its implication for the church's future are matters of concern for many Catholics, including some in high places.

"The [Latin] rite is only the locomotive," Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels said recently. "The issue is the carriages behind it. Behind this locomotive are carriages I don't want."

11 July 2007

Benedict's Mass Changes

Benedict XVI made waves recently when he issued a Motu Proprio further relaxing restrictions on the Liturgy of the 1962 Roman Missal:

In more recent time, however, the Second Vatican Council expressed the desire that with due respect and reverence for divine worship it be restored and adapted to the needs of our age. Prompted by this desire, our Predecessor the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI in 1970 approved for the Latin Church liturgical books restored and partly renewed, and that throughout the world translated into many vernacular languages, have been welcomed by the Bishops and by the priests and faithful....


However in some regions not a small number of the faithful have been and remain attached with such great love and affection to the previous liturgical forms, which had profoundly imbued their culture and spirit, that the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, prompted by pastoral concern for these faithful, in 1984 by means of a special Indult Quattuor abhinc annos, drawn up by the Congregation for Divine Worship, granted the faculty to use the Roman Missal published by John XXIII in 1962; while in 1988 John Paul II once again, by means of the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei, exhorted the Bishops to make wide and generous use of this faculty in favor of all the faithful requesting it.

Having pondered at length the pressing requests of these faithful to our Predecessor John Paul II, having also heard the Fathers of the Consistory of Cardinals held on 23 March 2006, having pondered all things, invoked the Holy Spirit and placed our confidence in the help of God, by this present Apostolic Letter we DECREE the following.

Art. 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is to be regarded as the ordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Catholic Church of Latin Rite, while the Roman Missal promulgated by St Pius V and published again by Blessed John XXIII as the extraordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) and on account of its venerable and ancient use let it enjoy due honor. These two expressions of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church in no way lead to a division in the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church, for they are two uses of the one Roman Rite.

Hence it is licit to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as the extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church. The conditions laid down by the previous documents Quattuor abhinc annos and Ecclesia Dei for the use of this Missal are replaced by what follows:

Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, any priest of Latin rite, whether secular or religious, can use the Roman Missal published by Pope Blessed John XXIII in 1962 or the Roman Missal promulgated by the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI in 1970, on any day except in the Sacred Triduum. For celebration in accordance with one or the other Missal, a priest does not require any permission, neither from the Apostolic See nor his own Ordinary.

Art. 3. If Communities or Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life of either pontifical or diocesan rite desire to have a celebration of Holy Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962 in the conventual or “community” celebration in their own oratories, this is allowed. If an individual community or the entire Institute or Society wants to have such celebrations often or habitually or permanently, the matter is to be decided by the Major Superiors according to the norm of law and the particular laws and statutes.

Art. 4. With due observance of law, even Christ’s faithful who spontaneously request it, may be admitted to celebrations of Holy Mass mentioned in art. 2 above.

Art. 5, § 1. In parishes where a group of faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition exists stably, let the pastor willingly accede to their requests for the celebration of the Holy Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962. Let him see to it that the good of these faithful be harmoniously reconciled with ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the Bishop according to canon 392, avoiding discord and fostering the unity of the whole Church.

§ 2. Celebration according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII can take place on weekdays, while on Sundays and on feast days there may be one such celebration.

§ 3. Let the pastor permit celebrations in this extraordinary form for faithful or priests who request it, even in particular circumstances such as weddings, funerals or occasional celebrations, for example pilgrimages.

§ 4. Priests using the Missal of Blessed John XXIII must be worthy and not impeded by law.

§ 5. In churches, which are neither parochial nor conventual, it is the Rector of the church who grants the above-mentioned permission.

Art. 6. In Masses celebrated with the people according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII, the Readings can be proclaimed even in the vernacular, using editions that have received the recognitio of the Apostolic See.

Art. 7. Where some group of lay faithful, mentioned in art. 5§1 does not obtain what it requests from the pastor, it should inform the diocesan Bishop of the fact. The Bishop is earnestly requested to grant their desire. If he cannot provide for this kind of celebration, let the matter be referred to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

Art. 8. A Bishop who desires to make provision for requests of lay faithful of this kind, but is for various reasons prevented from doing so, may refer the matter to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, which should give him advice and help.

Art. 9, § 1. Likewise a pastor may, all things duly considered, grant permission to use the older ritual in administering the Sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, as the good of souls may suggest.

§ 2. Ordinaries are granted the faculty to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation using the former Roman Pontifical, as the good of souls may suggest.

§ 3. It is lawful for clerics in holy orders to use even the Roman Breviary promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

Art 10. It is lawful for the local Ordinary, if he judges it opportune, to erect a personal parish according to the norm of canon 518 for celebrations according to the older form of the Roman rite or appoint a rector or chaplain, with due observance of the requirements of law.

Art. 11. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, erected in 1988 by John Paul II, continues to carry out its function. This Commission is to have the form, duties and norm for action that the Roman Pontiff may wish to assign to it.

Art. 12. The same Commission, in addition to the faculties it already enjoys, will exercise the authority of the Holy See by maintaining vigilance over the observance and application of these dispositions.

Whatever is decreed by Us by means of this Motu Proprio, we order to be firm and ratified and to be observed as of 14 September this year, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, all things to the contrary notwithstanding.

Given at Rome, at St Peter’s, on 7 July in the Year of Our Lord 2007, the Third of Our Pontificate.

(My emphasis.)

B16 also issues a letter to the bishops of the world addressing the issues that were re-kindled by the Motu Proprio:
News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion. There have been very divergent reactions ranging from joyful acceptance to harsh opposition, about a plan whose contents were in reality unknown.

This document was most directly opposed on account of two fears, which I would like to address somewhat more closely in this letter.

In the first place, there is the fear that the document detracts from the authority of the Second Vatican Council, one of whose essential decisions – the liturgical reform – is being called into question. This fear is unfounded. In this regard, it must first be said that the Missal published by Paul VI and then republished in two subsequent editions by John Paul II, obviously is and continues to be the normal Form – the Forma ordinaria – of the Eucharistic Liturgy. The last version of the Missale Romanum prior to the Council, which was published with the authority of Pope John XXIII in 1962 and used during the Council, will now be able to be used as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgical celebration. It is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were "two Rites". Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite.

As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted. At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal. Probably it was thought that it would be a matter of a few individual cases which would be resolved, case by case, on the local level. Afterwards, however, it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood. This was especially the case in countries where the liturgical movement had provided many people with a notable liturgical formation and a deep, personal familiarity with the earlier Form of the liturgical celebration. We all know that, in the movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre, fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level. Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.


In the second place, the fear was expressed in discussions about the awaited Motu Proprio, that the possibility of a wider use of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities. This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.


There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place. Needless to say, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.


Furthermore, I invite you, dear Brothers, to send to the Holy See an account of your experiences, three years after this Motu Proprio has taken effect. If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought.
(Emphasis mine.)


The National Catholic Register has an analysis of the why's and wherefore's of Benedict's decision:
Its primary and explicit purpose is to advance the cause of unity with traditionalist Catholics who have gone into schism — for example, members of the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.


In 1984, and again in 1988, Pope John Paul II allowed the 1962 missal to be used if the local ordinary gave permission. While it further showed that the Tridentine Mass was not abrogated, it remained an exception to the norm.

Benedict’s decree now speaks of one Latin rite with two “uses” or “forms” — the ordinary form is the Novus Ordo, last updated by John Paul II in 2000, and the extraordinary form is the missal last updated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

In North America, where the number of traditionalists in schism is relatively few, the impact of the new decree will likely be limited. Indeed, the new decree will have no direct impact on the vast majority of parishes.


Yet in some countries — France, Germany, Switzerland — where there are substantial numbers of Catholics who follow the old Mass and are not in full communion with Rome, the decree liberalizing use of the 1962 missal is hoped to have a reconciling effect.

Whether that will happen remains to be seen, as the Holy Father himself concedes that the roots of the division are “deeper” than the liturgy, even if it remains a potent sign of “identity” for traditionalists in schism.

Clearly though, the Holy Father’s initiative is one of great goodwill done explicitly as an opening to the Lefebvrists.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, was quoted July 8 saying, “This is really an historic day. We convey to Pope Benedict XVI our profound gratitude. His document is a gift of Grace. It’s not just any step, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s an act of justice, extraordinary supernatural help in a moment of grave ecclesial crisis.”


There is another dimension though, left largely unsaid in the publication of the decree. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has for many years complained that while the Novus Ordo of 1970 was valid and holy, the way it had been introduced created the impression of a rupture in the Church’s tradition, in which the Latin Mass and everything associated with it were simply discarded.

That wasn’t the intent of the Council Fathers, but the idea took hold, even as it became common to refer to the pre-Vatican II Mass and the post-Vatican II Mass.

In restoring the old Mass as an extraordinary form of the Church’s liturgy without requiring special permission, it is certain that Benedict hopes to replace the theme of rupture with one of continuity.

The simple fact that the 1962 Mass, with its long history, is now a legitimate option will lead to more priests and liturgically-minded lay people studying it, bringing it in from exile, so to speak.


Several critics claimed that the decree would bring into wider circulation the Good Friday “Prayer for the Jews” which describes them as “unbelieving” and prays for their conversion.

But the decree specifically excludes the liturgies of the Sacred Triduum, including Good Friday, from its provisions, so nothing at all has changed in that regard.

The Register also has a an op-ed type article about growing up Catholic in the immediate wake of the Novus Ordo:
While not all of his people need or want the old Mass, there is a significant constituency for whom the lack of this familiar and time-honored form of worship has been a hardship, and Pope Benedict’s action is that of a genuine pastor.

I am 50 and can barely remember the liturgy that started to drastically change when I was 8, in late 1964.

I first discovered the old Mass by coming upon pictures of President Kennedy’s funeral Mass in an old issue of Life magazine.

Later, I found a pre-Vatican II missal and was fascinated by the color photos of a young priest at various stages of celebrating a Mass.

Despite growing up in the 1960s in an “updated” Church, I was eager to know more about the Latin Mass and longed for it despite never having really known it.

By the time I was in college, this was largely behind me as I concluded that the door had been closed on the traditional form of Mass.

This was reversed in a meaningful way some 20 years ago as Pope John Paul II allowed for limited use of the Tridentine Mass. I found that my original attraction had been warranted, and that my occasional assistance at the old Mass is a great aid to prayer and faith at every level.

I am not alone — and most of the people attracted to the Latin Mass that I know are younger than me.

A now-elderly former colleague called me just this week to tell me how Sunday Latin Mass and daily Rosary are now sustaining her and her husband as he faces cancer treatment. They had been away from the sacraments for decades.

It was not as easy for a childhood neighbor of mine, a gentle and charitable woman who spoke lovingly of the Mass of her youth but who no longer went to church. Over time, it became clear to me that this she was put off by the changes. She was too estranged (and too frail of health) to ever come back.

Based on what I have read and seen for myself, many fallen-away Catholics were disaffected by the drastic change in our liturgy — some without fully grasping that this was such a significant factor. Others avoided naming the reason so as not to appear out of step.

The editor of a glossy trade publication, a man of 57 and a connoisseur of modern music, recently told me that, as a high school student, he simply lost his faith at the sight of Mass in English accompanied by folk guitar.

The late and legendary rocker Jerry Garcia was lost to the Catholicism of his childhood, drawn away by other things, no doubt, but he fondly remembered “the wonderful Latin Mass with its resonant sonorities and mysterious ritual movements.”

Many, like the poet Tito Casini, novelist Agatha Christie, and a host of other artists and intellectuals, were of an elevated sensibility, deeply appreciative of the beauty that all readily ascribe to the old Mass, and did not hesitate to identify the nature of their difficulties.

Through it all, God’s ways are not our ways. He tests us — and cares for us — in a variety of ways. I like to think that Pope Paul VI and his collaborators were doing the old Mass a great favor by insisting on a full switch to the new Mass.

It was in those years, the late 1960s, when the western world experienced profound tumult — a true cultural hurricane. When a hurricane is bearing down, you wrap your old treasures up and find a safe place for them, usually the attic, and you leave them hidden until the storms have certainly passed.

English Jesuit Father Hugh Thwaites is especially fond of this analogy because much of the blame for the collapse that Catholicism experienced in many places in those years would have fallen disproportionately on the Latin Mass — had it been around to take the hit.

Instead, the classic form of the Mass was out of sight and safe, and now those who remember it and those who are just discovering it, are reaping what the poet Casini foresaw in 1976 when he predicted the return of the Tridentine missal with the same confidence that he placed in tomorrow’s sunrise:

“It will rise again, ... the Mass will rise again … because it is the sun, and God thus established it for our life and comfort.” When it happens, he said, our eyes will be found “guilty of not having esteemed it worthily before the eclipse; our hearts guilty for not having loved it enough.”

Benedict XVI Works on Reforming the Reform

The BBC has a piece on B16's recent reassertion that Protestant churches are not churches in "the true sense of the word." BBC:

The text was written by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Pope Benedict before his election as Pope.

It states that Christ established only one Church here on earth.

Other Christian denominations, it argues, cannot be called Churches in the proper sense because they cannot trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles.

True to tradition

The new text is basically a re-statement of another document known as Domine Jesus, published in the year 2000 under the signature of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope.

That document set off a storm of criticism from Protestant and Anglican leaders who felt that the Vatican was failing to take into account progress made towards re-establishing Christian unity in talks with Rome over a period of many years.

Domine Jesus, CDF document "answering" common questions about doctrinal change.

01 July 2007

Public Displays of Religion, Hispanic Evangelicals, and Bob Abernathy

The Pew Forum has a neat look back at religious displays in the public arena.


The Forum also has a fascinating analysis of the growing numbers and power of Latino evangelicals.

Read the whole study here (pdf).


Interview with Bob Abernathy of PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.