Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ooh Ahh

In quick succession, I recently got two horrible pieces of news.

The first is that the wife of a man I know left him (I don't know whether he considers me a friend or just an acquaintance, so I won't presume). I have a lot of thoughts on this, but they're not proper to be anywhere except inside my own head, and maybe not even there. I just pray that God will remain active in the lives of all affected parties and that they'll allow the Holy Spirit to guide them to a proper resolution.

The second is that a guy with whom I was co-counselor at the camp where I worked two years ago just passed away. I don't have any other details. He was a good guy who'd come from a hard background. I'll be praying for him, too.

I don't know what to say, except to note that while I have no doubt that the second guy is on his way to heaven and that, while the first guy surely feels like he's in hell, hope still remains.

[I wasn't sure whether to do a musical title for this one or not. If my only options were punk or something, I wouldn't. The song Ooh Ahh, by Grits, is a soulful rap about life and loss and love and hope. Yeah, that sounds cliche, but it ends up striking a much deeper chord with me than a lot of other songs on the same subject. The link is just the song; you may want to have it in a background tab and read the lyrics as you listen.]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Save Tonight what I'll be doing as I work on my memo for Legal Skills due in about sixteen hours. I procrastinated, although I did come up with a skeleton ahead of time (unlike last time).

[Save Tonight was a song by Eagle-Eye Cherry that was a big hit in 1996. It's good, but I like the remix by Jackie O better (the anime music video is weird, so you may want to have it playing in the background).]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Minstrel Boy

Okay, so new experiment:
I'm going to try to make the title to every post the name of a song (which will likely be on my playlist, which has a lot of rock, punk, ska, and miscellania). We'll see how long this goes. If possible, I'll try to link to a version of the song on YouTube...although I make no comment on whatever video accompanies it.

[Minstrel Boy is an old Irish song set to the tune of the Moreen, a really old tune that you've definitely heard before. A fun punk version is done by Enter the Haggis, while a haunting version is done by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros (it's in the closing credits to Black Hawk Down).]

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Baffled About Communion

Okay, I thought I understood the rule about Communion in the Roman Catholic Church. I thought it was "Only Roman Catholics, with two exceptions. One, Eastern Orthodox (although they're forbidden by their own bishops). Two, emergencies when the person is properly disposed." Seems reasonable enough, but it fails to address one particular group: Anglo-Catholics.

The reasoning for "No Protestants" is stated as being that Protestants don't consider the Eucharist to be the transubstantiated Body and Blood of Christ. However, many Anglo-Catholics share the Roman Catholic belief about the nature of the Eucharist (and, to be snotty, I suspect a higher percentage of Anglo-Catholics than Roman Catholics believe this).

The reasoning for the "Eastern Orthodox = okay" is that they have valid holy orders. However, due to Old Catholic and Eastern Orthodox lines of succession (both of which are considered to have valid orders by Rome), many Anglican and most (all?) Anglo-Catholic clergy have re-established their lines of succession.

Thus my bafflement. According to the Code of Canon Law Canon 912, "Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion. That's where I come in. I was baptized by an Episcopalian priest as an infant. Thus, I have a valid baptism. I'm not excommunicated or under any other form of discipline. I share the Roman Catholic belief in the nature of the Eucharist. If I affiliate myself with an Anglo-Catholic body which has restored its holy orders then it would seem that the only thing holding me back from receiving Communion would be the need to make a valid Confession (I've never done this, so I'm presumably in a state of mortal sin at present).

Does anyone see any obvious flaws in this?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Boycotting China

One project I'm trying to get off the ground is How to Boycott China. The idea is to prepare a guide to help people avoid buying Chinese goods and to understand why such a boycott is a good idea. Right now I'm soliciting ideas on types of products to research. If you've got anything coming up that you're looking to buy, be it shower curtains or a cell phone, let me know and I'll see what I can do to find non-Chinese manufacturers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

FAQ on TAC & Rome

As I mentioned a few days ago, the Traditional Anglican Communion (which is not in communion with the See of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion) officially petitioned the Vatican for intercommunion. Reading a lot of the commentary, I've seen a lot of misconceptions thrown around, perhaps understandably by those who fear corruption and scandal of the Roman Catholic Church. What follows is my attempt, as one somewhat familiar with Anglo-Catholicism, to clarify things a bit.

So who are these TAC folks anyway? Do they ordain lesbian bishops?
The Traditional Anglican Communion is an Anglo-Catholic group which splintered off from the Anglican Communion (those national churches in communion with the See of Canterbury), largely over the issues of women's ordination and the general free-fall of worldwide Anglicanism. If the ones I've encountered are representative, they accede to Roman Catholic beliefs, pray for the intentions of the Pope (and somewhat implicitly consider him to be their head; anything he says gets a lot of airtime), and often use a somewhat retro style of Mass (words like "Thou" and "shalt" make a lot of appearances). Most of them would very much like to be in communion with Rome. To their mind, the only truly major hurdle is that of married priests and bishops. All the TAC bishops seem willing to step down if necessary, and the ban on married priests in the Roman Rite is canonical, not doctrinal (which is why Eastern Catholic priests are usually married).

Do they have valid orders?
TAC orders are probably valid, but definitely illicit. While Anglican orders were declared invalid in the 1800s due to a break occurring in the way priests were ordained shortly after the English Reformation, the method of ordaining has been "fixed" and is generally considered okay. That still left the problem of having actual orders to transmit. The TAC solution to this was to get Old Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bishops to co-consecrate TAC clergy. As Rome recognizes the validity of the orders of these co-consecrators, a seemingly strong argument can be made that TAC priests do in fact have valid orders.

Are there really 500,000 members of the Traditional Anglican Communion?
Eh, probably not. For all I know, it's a tenth of that. If I had to guess, I'd say it's probably one or two hundred thousand, with maybe 60-90% of those willing to swim the Tiber. I don't have any hard data, but those are the numbers which strike me as reasonable bases on what little I know.

What are the TAC folks asking for?
In short, intercommunion (unity) with Rome. They'd like something like Uniate status, if possible. They're pretty much ready to jump through whatever hoops Rome has for them; they've just got some requests for things they'd like to keep. Seriously: I think that if Rome were to say "the only solution is for each of you to convert individually," the TAC leadership would encourage their members to do it.

So why not just convert individually? Why all this hassle?
Again, the short answer is that I don't believe it would be in everyone's best interests to do that. Some are seeing this as a give-and-take affair with winners and losers. That seems to me to be a mistaken view. It's about reconciling in such a way as to effectively bring people into the Holy Catholic Church while also enriching it.

Anglicanism has a somewhat unique pedigree in the West. They believe their roots, especially through Celtic Christianity, predate the Roman mission to Britain. Historically the English Church has had many of its own traditions and a distinctive culture. It sent bishops to the Councils of Arles and Nicaea. It has been officially recognized by Rome as the oldest church in the gentile world. The Archbishop of Canterbury (pre-English Reformation) was treated by the Pope as the head of his own "ecclesia," rather than diocese.

Why is this a big deal?
Firstly, no Reformation-induced body of Christians has ever corporately reunited with Rome. The petition of TAC provides numerous benefits. In English-speaking countries, Roman Catholicism is generally regarded as one (maybe just a half) step up from Santeria. It's regarded as an ethnic enclave of Irish, Italians, and Hispanics. Those of Anglo-Saxon(-ish) background (either physically or mentally) have a lot of trouble with that. It's just seen as impenetrable and somewhat suspect. An Anglican Rite would be something of a bridge and a touchstone for English speakers, allowing them to poke around and say "hmm, it's not as bad as I thought it would be." Roman Catholics: feel free to be offended. At the same time, charity's altogether lacking in this world and a little bit here could go a long way. Don't think that the Eastern Orthodox and the Lefebvrist SSPX folks aren't watching to see whether the TAC will be treated cordially as long-lost brethren or simply gobbled up and told to shut up about Anglican ideals. There are Anglo-Catholics outside the TAC, including entire dioceses of the Episcopal Church, who might very well latch on to a viable recognition of Anglican Catholicism. I honestly believe that the Roman Catholic Church, especially under the current Pope, has the potential to heal the Great Schism, bring back the SSPX, get a foot in the door with Anglicanism, and even get the Evangelicals to sit down and really think about how separate they want to be.

Monday, October 22, 2007

8 Bit Fever

Inspired by this post over at Dean's World, I give you modern science:

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Being Immature and Venting

I've got Verizon Wireless cell phone service and I'm looking to re-up. Their network is great, but (tragically) their actual phones are less-than-inspiring. In any case, I wandered into my local Verizon Wireless store to play with the new phones and see if any of them caught my fancy (none did) (I'm waiting for either the LG Venus or Audiovox xv6800).

Anyway, they've now got some kind of automated waiting list now where you have to put in a bunch of information about yourself. On the Big Board you can see your name (in my case, "Robert.B") and your place in the queue. For various reasons I had to go in multiple times and it got pretty annoying having to do this every time, even when I was the only person in the store.

Before going on, remember that I'm immature, petty, and vindictive at times. Deciding to amuse myself, and wanting to keep things PG-rated, I answered their query as follows:

The end result, of course, was "IDONTLIKE.U." This stayed up for several minutes as there was already someone in line before me. However, I did notice that instead of waiting for about five minutes after finished with the lady in front of me, as seems to be their wont, they called me up immediately (and made me wait). Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

PSA on Gun Safety

When you go to the shooting range, make sure you have adequate ear and eye protection. If you wear small-ish glasses, consider supplementing them with larger safety glasses. The important thing is to make sure no powder or casings can hit and burn your eyes. As for ear protection, earplugs are good, muffs are good...both together are better. As a friend of mine discovered a week or so ago on his first trip to the range, sometimes muffs can get separated from the side of your head for an instant, leaving your delicate ear vulnerable to folks shooting very loud weapons nearby in an indoor range. He may have permanently lost some hearing in that ear. To some extent it's my fault for not checking to make sure his "ears" were on properly, but I'd never had a problem with mine (because I normally wear earplugs as well, I guess) and so it didn't even occur to me.

As a general principle, if you can add a lot of safety for very little inconvenience or expense, do it. Skimping on things like that can really come back to bite you. Hopefully this is just a temporary thing for my friend and he'll be good as new before too long.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Virginia Tech and the BCS

As of today, Friday, Virginia Tech is #11 in the BCS. Of course, with USF's loss to unranked Rutgers last night that's likely to change soon, but here's the current top 15:
1. Ohio State (7-0), Big 10
2. South Florida (6-1), Big East
3. Boston College (7-0), ACC Atlantic
4. LSU (6-1), SEC West
5. Oklahoma (6-1), Big 12 South
6. South Carolina (6-1), SEC South
7. Kentucky (6-1), SEC South

8. Arizona State (7-0), Pac 10
9. West Virginia (5-1), Big East
10. Oregon (5-1), Pac 10
11. Virginia Tech (6-1), ACC Coastal
12. California (5-1), Pac 10
13. Kansas (6-0), Big 12 North
14. USC (5-1), Pac 10
15. Florida (4-2), SEC East

Keep in mind that the only team I really care about here is Virginia Tech, which means I'm concerned with who we need to pass and who could conceivably pass us. I'm also assuming that Tech runs the table, which would be hard but not impossible in a year full of ACC parity.

While a two-loss Florida would be hard to put over Tech, especially if they don't win their conference, Cal, Kansas, and USC could do so by winning theirs. In particular, it'd be really hard to justify putting us ahead of an undefeated Kansas.

The good news is that many of the teams above us have to play each other. Assuming Tech goes 12-1 and there's no more carnage than necessary above us in the polls, I would see us ending up at #6. Obviously USF is gone, which would move us to #10. Beating Boston College (perhaps twice...) would make it #9. Oregon and Arizona State play each other, meaning we'd move up one more to #8. Among LSU, South Carolina, and Kentucky only one can win the championship, meaning that two of these teams would likely drop below us, vaulting us two places to #6.

This leaves (probably) Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and either Arizona State or Oregon, plus any of the four behind us that might make a run. However, we can essentially discount these last few as they are in the same conferences as the teams before us. If one of them gets in, one of the top five pretty much has to go.

So how do these remaining teams look? Ohio State has to play five 5-2 teams to close their season, including Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Illinois. If they can survive that then they obviously deserve to be #1; even with a close loss to a good team they may still have a chance at the championship game. LSU has survived the hardest part of their schedule, although they'll likely play either Kentucky or South Carolina. Two losses and they're out; undefeated from now on probably gets them #2. Certainly, they have a tiebreaker against us if the records are even. Oklahoma beat Texas, but they've still got Texas Tech, in-state rival OK State, and a champion from the surprisingly strong Big 12 North to deal with. If they make it through, I still think LSU has a better loss against UK than OK's loss to Colorado. If Kansas and Oklahoma each suffer one more loss, though, I think the Big 12 is out of the picture for the Big Dance.

West Virginia might pull it out, but they've got to play away games at both Rutgers and Cincinnati (yeah, it feels weird to write that). Even if they win the Big East, I suspect a 12-1 ACC Champion Virginia Tech would jump over an 11-1 Big East Champion West Virginia. Maybe not, but probably. WVU is also the Big East's only major contender now that USF has fallen. That leaves us with the Oregon/ASU/USC/Cal conundrum. ASU and USC still have to play the other three, while Cal beat Oregon before themselves losing to Oregon State. An undefeated ASU or one-loss Pac 10 Champion of the other three should be higher ranked than Tech, but significant carnage is probably headed our way on that front.

As for the Hokies, we still have some challenges. We host BC next Thursday night and travel to Georgia Tech one week later. We host weaker-than-usual iterations of Miami and Florida State before traveling to unsteady UVA for our season closer. If we win out, we almost certainly re-face Boston College in the ACC Championship, barring a complete meltdown on their part (Clemson and Maryland being the only teams with any hope of unseating them).

The good news is that, given the ACC's weakness, we can probably still win the Coastal division even if we lose to BC this week so long as we can beat UVA. A BCS bowl is attainable, and even the national championship game isn't completely off-limits yet. If there's as much carnage in the next few weeks as there has been already, anything is possible.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Torture and Hypotheticals

Let me start by reproducing a comment I left in response to this post over at Mark Shea's.


Honestly, I really do appreciate you (and others) discussing the issue. It's something worth discussing. I'm not the only one having trouble with understanding this, and I suspect that I'm not alone. I certainly do apologize for intemperate remarks that I've made, and if I come to understand any other folly on my part I'll apologize for it as it dawns on me.

To my mind, I'm not starting with fear. I'm starting with the idea that coercive force is always wrong and trying to plug it into hypothetical situations (kind of like law school or the scientific method). What concerns me is that in some of these situations it seems as though I'm having to choose between evils to commit. If I have an obligation to protect someone and an obligation not to use coercive force, there are situations where both obligations cannot be fulfilled. I'm trying desperately to find a way out (or a loophole, if you prefer) where I can meet both my obligations in such a situation.

Torture is always wrong. If what the administration is sanctioning is torture then it needs to stop. However, they have an obligation to defend the American people and an obligation not to torture. It seems as though we're putting them into a no-win situation where at best they can only fulfill one obligation.

I had provided hypothetical situations, more-or-less patterned on the "ticking time-bomb" scenario, where the use of coercive force seemed to be the only way to prevent serious harm. The hope was to find either a type of coercive force that did not rise to the level of torture or a situation where what would otherwise be torture isn't in that case. I can think of situations where either one might be acceptable.

I think the police have the right to coerce a prisoner to submit to a warranted body-cavity search. I believe they have the right to forcibly manipulate a person's hand to obtain a fingerswipe on a protected computer. I don't believe they have the right to chain him to a metal bed and shock him. The problem is that I can't articulate a bright line as a distinction.

Similarly, I don't believe that two adults engaged in sadomasochism (or boxers) are actually being tortured as is prohibited, in that they've consented to the ordeal. Is it possible, for instance, that those enemy combatants who do not follow traditional rules of war have implicitly consented? I don't say that this is the case, but the argument could be made.

What gets me is the idea that this is "relativistic porn." This isn't "Who Would You Do?" or "Would You Rather..." being used as a party game. It's meant as a serious consideration of an issue facing Americans today as voters and as moral beings. Hard cases make bad law, but the proof is also in the pudding. Scientifically, a "law" is disproven if you can find a case where the theory doesn't work(having a net effect of zero is something else). In law school, professors regularly come up with absurd situations to find out whether a rule is appropriate. While sometimes this simply downgrades an argument from "always" to "tends to be," it also shows times when application of a rule as stated would result in harm.

When you buy a car, you want to know how it would perform in an emergency or in an accident. The odds of getting hit by a Mack truck are minuscule, but no one considers it odd to look over the safety ratings and consider them in deciding what kind of car to buy. Why is this different? Read the story of Operation Redwing. Four Navy SEALs decided by a vote of 2-1-1 not to kill innocent Afghans. The sole surviving SEAL seems to think he made the wrong decision. We have people out there, risking their lives, who haven't been properly educated on morality. They're facing the "incredibly unlikely" situations from which those of us stateside are insulated. If I end up serving in a war zone I definitely want to have my moral compass oriented right.

Ten years ago I suspect the idea of a shooting spree at the law school of a public university in Virginia would be "incredibly unlikely" and be deemed by some "relativistic porn." Since then, there was a mass shooting at Appalachian School of Law (a private law school in Virginia) and at Virginia Tech (a public university). Is the concern still so remote? I believe it's not. Similarly, I believe that the hypothetical situations to which the idea of "coercive force equals torture and is forbidden)" are being subjected are worth considering.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Do You Ever Find...

...that there are things that you can't really say to a certain group of people you know because there's no way it wouldn't offend them? Especially if it's something subjective and isn't something that's going to change?

Once Again, Mark Shea Disagrees With Me

If you read Mark Shea's blog, you've probably noticed his focus on torture lately. The problem is that he's so intent on establishing that torture is wrong that he doesn't both to establish what torture actually is. His big piece of support is Gaudiam et Spes, a Papal document, which condemns "torments inflicted on body or mind, [and] attempts to coerce the will itself." Where I have trouble is that this can be taken so broadly as to be useless. Do you spank your child when they do wrong, or even just sit them in the corner? Seems like coercion and a torment on the body to me. Do you use positive peer pressure to get your kids not to do drugs? Coercion. If someone threatens to kill your family this very instant may you coerce them, through torment on the body or mind if necessary, not to do so?

I don't argue that torture is right. It's not. However, we know that there are times when force is justifiable (or else Just War Theory would be a mere novelty). What we need to know is when those times are, and what may be done. In common law, for instance, you could shoot someone who invades your home and threatens you, but once he starts running away you may not shoot him in the back. Matthew 10:16 commands us to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (New Robert Bauer Translation).

Mark snarkily thinks this kind of thinking is not only counterproductive, but sinful. I had given a hypothetical situation (in these comments) where your child has been kidnapped and will die unless the kidnapper tells you where the child is. Shea goes on to embellish my example with CSI-esque examples and calls it "incredibly unlikely." Really? Such a situation could not be believed? I'll bet this boy and this boy and these two are glad to know that kidnapping never leads to murder.

The fact is that any number of situations occur where information is time-sensitive and people's lives are at risk. Mocking and condemning those who substantially agree with you but want more clarity is reprehensible, and Mark Shea should know better.

Apparently it's not as bad as all that. While there was snark and disagreement, the two weren't meant maliciously (if that makes sense; it does in my own head). I apologize for any undue harm caused to Mark, and know that he shares the same sentiment. I believe the discussion is a valuable one, and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to consider opinions. It's very easy for tempers to flare up, and I think everyone would benefit by holding back on saracasm, snark, and by extending an extra dose of charity to situations.

Things were getting a little heated in the comments to this post. Debate is encouraged; hostility gets things shut down. I'm not above censorship.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Wow, talk about an informative comments section! Okay, for those of you on Google:
"How to become a Catholic if you are already a Christian"
"How to avoid RCIA"
"RCIA alternative"
"Baptized Christian become Catholic"

Incidentally, the priests in this area are apparently currently at a conference/retreat/something this week and so they're unavailable. Bishop DiLorenzo will be celebrating Mass this Sunday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to Get (almost) Free Classical Music

I'll start with the short version and give more info as this post progresses. Your time is almost up on this one, though. Go to Circuit City and look hard for this. They used to be all over the place but now there are probably only a handful on the clearance rack. They're marked at $39.99 but are actually less than $15. The hardware is junk: it works, but it's really basic. Maybe it'd make for a cheap alternative to an iPod Shuffle, but I've already got one of those. You can throw it away without qualm, although I suppose putting it in a Toys for Tots bin might not be the worst thing ever.

The prize is the card with the code for 180 downloads. Now, even when the package cost $40 this was pretty good, as buying the tracks individually would be $180 (the same as Napster and iTunes and essentially the same as Amazon's, Zune's, and Wal-Mart's stores). eMusic focuses on smaller labels, and in fact you probably won't find many, if any, Top 40 songs there. If you like alternative music you can find albums by bands such as Flogging Molly and MU330l, but their hidden talent lies in their Classical selection, which includes the Naxos label. Why is this such a good deal? Two main reasons exist. The first is that a lot of the albums are only five or ten tracks; you could download Shostakovich's 5th, 8th, and 11th symphonies by the London Symphony Orchestra under Rostropovich and it would only be 11 credits. Even at Napster/iTunes prices you're getting three (absolutely amazing) albums for the price of one. Now realize that you paid around about eight cents for each credit and your whole purchase just cost you less than a dollar (actually the same as a single Wal-Mart download). Secondly, even if you want something like J.S. Bach's Mass in B Minor which is 31 tracks. Instead of paying $31 through Napster or $13-20 in a store, you're paying about $2.50. The music is encoded in MP3 which means that it'll work on either your Windows Media Player devices or your iPod.

What are the downsides? Well, MP3s are twice as big as AAC or WMA files and so it could cause a budgeting problem on smaller players. However, you can convert the files without too much difficulty. You don't get the actual physical package, which would be nice to have. The lack of a booklet can be an important consideration, as the albums by Anonymous 4 include lyrics that you're probably not going to figure out unless you speak Medieval Latin. The sound quality is less than you'd get from an actual CD.

However, I tend to listen to music on my computer or in my car. The music is plenty rich as it is and I don't have the equipment to really gain more than a little bit more from a CD. The LSO Live and The Sixteen are two groups I've come to enjoy immensely, especially the aforementioned Shostakovich by LSO Live and the works of Allegri, Palestrina, and Victoria by The Sixteen. Really, check it out. I bought several and would give them as gifts if anyone I knew really liked Classical music and would download it.

Lord, Let It Be So!

This is encouraging. I'd love to see an Anglican uniate church, and TAC seems to have done everything they could to bring this about. Rome, the ball's in your court. Will you restore the English Church's place in Roman Catholicism or will you be hectored by intransigents still upset over the Battle of the Boyne and the English Reformation?

Your Pundit Got Armor!

IMNSHO, Indian culture needs more appreciation in this country. This is a great start. (via Dean Esmay)

(if BET and MTV are work-safe for you, the link above definitely is)


I think this will have been the third RCIA class I've started and quit. It's not because the people aren't nice: they're very friendly. It's not because they're theologically crazy: the two most recent ones involved what seemed like perfectly normal doctrine. It's just that it's a huge, huge time commitment that seems like a rehashing of work I've already done. I'm not some newcomer to Christianity who doesn't know hermeneutics from apologetics or Peter from Paul. I've read the entire Bible (minus the Deuterocanonical books, but I'm working on those) and sought out answers to questions I had. I've wrestled with the concepts of papal infallibility, the Marian doctrines, apostolic succession, the Real Presence, praying to saints, Purgatory, and the many ways that the Roman Catholic Church has let down Christendom for the past two thousand years (not that I probably would have done better) and found myself in line with Rome's doctrines. This doesn't make me a better person than someone who hasn't done this, but it makes me different from them.

As much as I'd like to partake of the Eucharist, I don't have 2-3 hours every week on the night before I have three classes the next morning. I can't afford to blow off law school based on bureaucracy. I have a valid Christian baptism and a belief in the Real Presence. If an expedited solution isn't available I'll just continue to go up with crossed arms at RCC parishes and get illicit-but-valid Communion at Traditional Anglican Church parishes in the region (their priests have the "Dutch Touch" that restores the validity of their orders).

Honestly, this is annoying. A person gets baptized as a Roman Catholic and does virtually nothing in accordance with the Roman Catholic faith and may partake, but because I was baptized as an Episcopalian my submission and faithfulness mean jack squat.

UPDATE: According to the folks in the Comments, it may be that I'm overreacting and that there are much shorter options available. If so, that'd be great. And, let me be clear: I don't believe the RCIA program I attended was in any way defective. It just takes up a huge amount of time at the time of the week I can least afford to spare it, and does so until Easter. I've already spent scores, perhaps hundreds, of hours researching, praying, and seeking advice. If a priest told me he wanted me to read through the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church and meet with him eight times at a more convenient time I'd be okay with that (I had to do something similar in order to date a girl once). Honestly, I'm just frustrated at what looks to my eyes as red tape. Here's the basic secret I've noticed to understanding me: I'll complain to high heaven about little things, but I generally keep pretty quiet on major hassles. If I'm complaining it just means I haven't figured out a solution or that it's not very important. I take action on things that are actually more important, and I seek advice if it's major and I don't how to solve it. I do appreciate the comments, though: there's not nearly enough material out there on how a faithful Christian should convert to Roman Catholicism short of RCIA.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

An Interview with HokiePundit, Part III

Have you been surprised by the hostility of some of the reactions to your conversion?
I guess it depends on what you mean by "surprised." I've actually told very few people directly about my intentions. Generally, and with some outliers, the responses have ranged from baffled interest to concerned disdain. Back in 2003, in the wake of the disastrous Episcopalian General Convention, I mentioned to a friend that I might start looking at other denominations, such as Methodism, Lutheranism, and Roman Catholicism. At this last item, his response was "Oh Robbie, don't go over to Satan!" I haven't told him about my decision, as you might imagine. I think for people who know me, this news might be unexpected but certainly not surprising. In the Evangelical campus ministry in which I participated during college I was way, way out on what you might call the "Catholic wing," as opposed to those with more "Reformed," "Charismatic," or "Baptist" tendencies. Honestly, I fully expect that when I eventually update my Facebook profile to reflect this that I'll get a boatload of concerned emails, some of which will think I'm joking. Even some people who are close to me who don't go to church services or do much of anything else involving religion see Roman Catholicism as maybe two steps up on if I were to declare myself to have same-sex attraction or were joining Scientology.

An Interview with HokiePundit, Part II

What led you to the Church?
Jesus. Either that, or a squirrel. (Old, old Evangelical joke.)
Okay, I've never really been a fan of math, but the idea of a vector makes sense here, with my starting point being an Episcopalian background and the direction being an interest in doctrine, theology, and denominations.

Being an Episcopalian gives you both advantages and disadvantages when going between Roman Catholics and "Protestants." Both sides see something in you they recognize...but neither really trusts you 100%. Except for some of your more free-form Bible Church-type services, an Episcopalian can pretty much navigate his way among any other type of service (probably excepting the more ethno-centric services and denominations) well enough to blend in. This works to some extent in theology, too, as he can generally get his foot in the door, whether it be the Westminster Confession, the Council of Trent, or the Prayer of Jabez. Many Episcopalians have had one other unexpected impetus: the general free-fall and suicide of the denomination has caused many of those who are more theologically conservative (Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics) to look elsewhere. The idea of Episcopalians, who tend to be as blue-blooded as you can get (my ancestors weren't, but wanted to be), being refugees is actually really funny.

For whatever reason, I was always fascinated by the differences between denominations. Part of it came from discovering that they didn't just arise ex nihilo, but formed a complicated family tree. Just as an example, Baptists arose from the old Congregationalists in New England (basically the Pilgrims and Puritans from elementary school history). These, in turn, were dissenters from the Church of England, which was itself, of course, broken away from the Roman Catholic Church. However, the Eastern churches broke off from Rome long before this. Not only that, but the Methodists later broke off from the Anglicans, eventually giving rise to groups such as the Salvation Army (an actual denomination) and Pentecostals. Sometimes there were massive differences that caused the split, as with the Calvinists and Anabaptists, while sometimes the differences were minuscule. In some cases, they've even been "resolved," although the groups still remain separated. By becoming aware of what other Christians believed I was able to consider and accept or reject different concepts and have a reason for the decision. I'm not sure why it was, as I wasn't trained in Episcopalian theology (although perhaps the culture had already claimed me), but no matter what I decided it always seemed to end up within the bounds of Episcopalianism. Maybe I should clarify.

Unlike the many denominations that have a specific creed, Episcopalianism generally only requires a belief that the Bible is the word of God, a belief in the Nicene and Apostles' creeds, and in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (I think apostolic succession is the only major point in there). This is even distinct from much of Anglicanism, which often has a very Calvinistic flavor depending on the specific Province. Episcopalianism tends to be almost more "familial" than like a political party. I may disagree with my family members, even vehemently, but that doesn't mean we're not a family. This can be a strength, but it has also proven to be a weakness, as this tolerance has been stretched to the breaking point lately. Really, "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis is a pretty good example of the best aspects of this kind of thought. Lutherans have their Martin Luther and Prebyterians have their John Calvin; conservative Episcopalians pretty much lionize C.S. Lewis. His books, especially "Mere Christianity," "The Screwtape Letters," and "The Great Divorce" provided much of my earliest reading upon becoming a Christian in high school and I'm not sure I've found anything in them with which I disagree.

Here's the thing, though: a "Lewisian" view tends to be relatively "high-church." I don't remember the source, but someone persuasively argued that if he hadn't been born in Northern Ireland, and after Vatican I, Lewis would almost certainly have been Roman Catholic. This isn't exactly self-evident from reading his more popular books; I suspect the Evangelical bookstores would be appalled if they found out. I'll bet none of them have ever actually read "The Great Divorce," as it's essentially an argument for the existence of Purgatory and I can't imagine it being sold if they knew. In any case, important concepts for this view are the quintessential English values of reasonableness and tolerance. Thus, when you see people whom you respect (including, and especially, Lewis himself) believing in things like the existence of Purgatory it makes it a lot easier to put aside what you've always heard for a moment and consider the concept itself.

For me, it was a series of things like this. Reading up on the idea, I couldn't find any basis for actually denying the idea of Purgatory, and could even see some reasons why it might make sense. The question of the canon of the Bible and sola scriptura also came up, as the Table of Contents isn't actually part of the Bible itself. Eventually, one thing led to another and I found myself knocked up with the willingness to consider that perhaps the Roman Catholic Church's claims about itself were true.

The biggest barrier for me was cultural. It would seem that every time I attended some kind of Roman Catholic event I would be appalled by something. I went to an RCIA class and the first thing they did was to enquire as to whether anyone was divorced and remarried and needed annulment. While I don't think they meant exactly what it seemed to me at the time, you can see how this would dismay an Evangelical and be downright insulting to an Anglican (see above). Even now, I feel as though I'm having to trade a huge number of good practices in exchange for doctrinal authority; to my mind it should be an upgrade (insert your own reference to the Pearl of Great Price here). It was also the kind of thing that was much more Petrine than Pauline. While I did have to prod myself to some extent, too much of it, or anything but the gentlest of nudges from others, provoked a digging in of heels and a swing back towards Reformed notions. Something that helped was to see ordinary Roman Catholics who took their faith seriously. While folks like Mark Shea and Jimmy Akin were useful in terms of understanding doctrine, people like TS O'Rama and Louder Fenn (whose has tragically dropped off the face of the Internet) provided a glimpse of everyday life. The conversions of prominent people such as Francis Beckwith, J. Budziszewski, and Dean Esmay also played a role.

Friday, October 5, 2007

An Interview with HokiePundit

I wasn't sure how to explain my decision to move from Evangelicalism/Anglo-Catholicism (when people asked my denomination, I'd say either "miscellaneous" or, if they were familiar with Facebook, "It's Complicated"), but perhaps poaching (can you "steal" questions?) from the National Catholic Reporter's interview with recent-convert-from-Evangelicalism Francis Beckwith would be a good place to start.

You spent quite a few years in the Evangelical and Anglican worlds. What could Catholics learn from Evangelicals and Anglicans?
Whew, let me go find my soapbox. In my view, a lot. However, let me back the truck up for a moment.

I believe that it is counter-productive for Roman Catholics to consider Evangelicals and those in Mainline denominations "Protestants." The term conjures up visions of laborers striking for better pay and working conditions who will return to the job once their conditions are met, or at least their grievances aired. This simply does not reflect the reality of the situation. The workers have left and started their own factory using the knowledge they gained from their old jobs. In my view, a much better analogy would be the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament. "Protestants" are now more-or-less self-sufficient (whether they're mortally wounded or not and don't realize it is another question entirely), and certainly independent. I would even go so far as to question whether these "tribes" have been ripped away from the Throne of Peter as a result of the wickedness it allowed and even condoned. The Lutherans and Anabaptists had some pretty legitimate gripes, with the Roman Catholic Church seriously abusing its position and definitely failing to properly educate the people in their faith. The Anglicans had much less of a claim, but Henry VIII had a reasonable expectation that the annulment he sought would be granted, as this seems to have been the common practice at the time and if it weren't for the intervention of his wife Catherine of Aragon's nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, it probably would have happened. As far as I can tell, all "Protestants" ultimately trace their origins to these three groups. The Roman Catholic Church (which, as a reminder, I'm aligning myself with) bears a huge responsibility for the many, many souls it has let slip away due to corruption, ignorance, apathy, and pride. Back to my point, though, these groups aren't protesting anything. It's not even an issue, and if anything, they believe the Roman Catholics should re-unite with them and not vice-versa. Most of their believers come from a long line of non-Catholics and they no more "reject" or "protest" Roman Catholicism than I reject or protest British citizenship. Rome has already had its Counter-Reformation, and even signed a joint statement with Lutherans saying that they believed the same things on Justification. Yet, the Lutherans aren't seeking reunion, and this should tell Roman Catholics something. Calling such folk "Protestants" simply distracts from the reality of things.

Before saying what can be learned, let me say that nothing essential should ever be compromised. Doing so is a plan for suicide. At the same time, it's important to recognize that simply being vested with doctrinal and institutional authority does no necessarily mean that other Christian groups aren't doing things better. Also, I'm only listing the positives for the two groups; there are plenty of "make sure you don't fall into this trap" things that could very easily be mentioned.

The biggest strength of Evangelicalism is its emphasis on knowing the Bible. While I believe this comes from the mistaken idea that the Church is a product of the Bible and not the other way around, this study is a powerful tool. Roman Catholics have a reputation, which in my experience is often well-deserved, of not knowing what the Bible says. While Evangelicals can often discuss how the prophecies of Isaiah relate to Christ, Roman Catholics are confused by the term "Pauline" to describe half the Epistles. Evangelicals are known for having weekly Bible studies, for having (often overly-long) sermons that delve deep into the original meanings of words in Greek and Hebrew, and for being able to quote verses of Scripture (even if selectively). This literacy of Scripture is a powerful tool, as it is described as a sword and a shield by the Bible in Ephesians. While the Roman Catholic Church has a strong tradition and arsenal of prayers, they tend to be more subtle and defensive in nature, if that makes sense. Scripture is more offensive (in both ways) than prayer, and sometimes it's the right tool for the job.

Other strengths include more of a willingness to utilize updated methods to express beliefs; "praise and worship" music is probably the best example of this, along with the related genre of Contemporary Christian Music. To be fair, much of this is dreck. Again, I don't know the source, but it's been pointed out that 90% of just about anything is junk. Not all Classical composers were Bachs, Beethovens, Mozarts, or Palestrinas (yes, I'm merging Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic; sue me); these are the ones whose work has endured for centuries. There are some jewels to be found among these, though. In particular, I would recommend Casting Crowns and Rich Mullins for P&W and Five Iron Frenzy, Audio Adrenaline, and Relient K for CCM (these are all kind of 20-something guy -type groups, though). These influences, along with that of a lot of Evangelical writing, seem to be making inroads among Roman Catholics.

As for Anglicans, their biggest strengths are in what is sometimes seen as a more "tasteful" and "reasonable" form of Roman Catholicism. Although this is often mocked as being style over substance, there's something to it. Consider aesthetics. Roman Catholic styles look to outsiders as gaudy, tacky, dated, and somewhat feminine. Episcopalian styles are more tasteful, well-appointed, classical, and neutral. I know that's a subjective call, but think of plaster statues, glow-in-the-dark rosaries, and pastel vestments, and then consider stone buildings, the Book of Common Prayer, and bolder colors. Some of this is culture-based, too: most English-speaking "Protestants" are of Anglo-Saxon stock, or at least mindset. To a large extent, they look at Roman Catholicism and say "I don't see my culture reflected there." It's seen as a faith for Irish, Italian, and Mexican people. To my mind, this is why some sort of provision for a distinct body of Roman Catholics with an Anglican flavor would be worth having. In English-speaking countries there is a huge, huge cultural barrier to be overcome for Evangelicals and Anglicans to pursue Roman Catholicism. Seriously, the view is almost that of people swinging at a pinata full of Communion wafers. As battered as the reputation is, Episcopalians still have a kind of street cred as being more-or-less reasonable. Such a group would provide a kind of bridge, as it would be doctrinally sound but without the "ethnic" baggage (yes, Anglo-Saxon is an ethnicity, but we're speaking subjectively here). A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


God help me, but I've decided that the Holy Catholic Church is the steward of Christ's authority on this Earth. This belief has already cost me dearly, and I suspect I'm not done yet done paying the cost. Maybe I'll eventually write a detailed post explaining my decision.

Monday, October 1, 2007

(re-) Found a Friend

I'm glad he's back online. I have no way of contacting him, but Ben, let me know if you find this.