Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The crucial importance of time, again

I was reading Ralph McInerny's What Went Wrong with Vatican II (Sophia Institute Press, 1998) and came to his narrative about the publication of and response to Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical in which Pope Paul VI recommitted the Catholic Church to its traditional teachings against contraception. Fittingly, the chapter is called "The Year the Church Fell Apart." A little while back I wrote on how crucially important time can be in human activity, notably in warfare and in the collisions of Christianity with secular society, and how Christians can succumb to a peculiar form of overconfidence and complacence. In the story of Humanae Vitae we see another disastrous example of good intentions getting completely overwhelmed by the sometimes-fatal results of delay.

Oral contraceptives were becoming widely available in the U.S. and parts of Europe in the early-to-mid-1960's, as Vatican II was taking place. Pope John XXIII knew that the Church would have to grapple with the issues raised by this new technology, but he didn't allow the question to come before the assembled Council. Instead, he reserved it for his own study, in which he would be aided by a commission of scholars. A papal pronouncement would follow when the work was done.

But John XXIII died during the Council, long before he could finish. Paul VI expanded the advisory group and took up the work. Not to come down on poor Pope Paul too hard, but this was when things got out of hand. Months went by after the Council disbanded, then a year, then two, and there was no pronouncement. Some Catholic theologians were weighing in, invited and uninvited, on the side of dropping the longstanding opposition to artificial birth control, and the longer they did so without contradiction from the Vatican, the more it seemed that major changes were, indeed, in the works. Otherwise, why would things be taking so long? Rank-and-file married Catholics were getting conflicting advice from their parish priests, and some priests were getting ambiguous signals from their bishops. Theologians who had argued for a loosening of the traditional opposition felt confident that their voices had been decisive, and looked forward to greeting their anticipated victory over the traditionalists with the easy grace of good sportsmen.

Then Humanae Vitae was published, and it became clear that there were going to be no changes, after all.

The you-know-what really hit the fan then. Some theologians and academics rose in open revolt; some Catholic universities declared that the encyclical wasn't binding upon them. Some of those rank-and-file Catholics who had started using contraception in anticipation of change just quietly gave up on following their Church's teachings. It was the harbinger of much of a similar nature that was to come.

Two things were at work there, which both Popes should have taken into account in gauging the amount of time they had to make a decision.

First, in the case of the academics, it was the natural tendency to assume that the years of study and deliberation could be necessary only if a major change was being defined, and to relish the triumph they anticipated; and the boomerang of bitter disappointment when those confident hopes were dashed.

Second, in the case of ordinary Catholics, it was the natural tendency to hope that their lives would somehow get easier and more "normal" when compared with their non-Catholic neighbors. Sexual mores were in flux, societal props to traditional behavior were falling apart, and temptation was all around them.

Both these tendencies, if we generalize them a little, aren't exclusive to the Catholic Church; they're ordinary things that happen in every human organization. They're known to every executive in every successful corporation.

The simple lesson is that as soon as people know that change to a law or regulation is under active consideration, a clock starts ticking. I don't care that it's the Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, against which the gates of Hell will not prevail, etc., etc. Leaders don't have an unlimited time to decide what to do. At some point, whose identification is part of the art of leadership, people are going to start drawing their own conclusions and acting on their own. If you, as a leader, delay beyond that point, you begin to lose control of the situation, and of your organization.

It's bad enough when that results in a failed product or lost jobs. It's much worse when souls are at stake.

What if Humanae Vitae, with its forthright, eminently logical rededication of the Church to its constant teaching, had come out in 1965, and nipped all that doubt and uncertainty and pride in the bud? We'll never know.

Contraception. In vitro fertilization. Sexual misconduct by priests. All of these challenges have been handled badly by the Church because those in charge of making decisions wanted a few more years to study the problem (or, in the latter case, sometimes to move the problem to another parish). And all of them have been disasters. If there has been a benefit to this pattern of delay that outweighs the terrible price it has exacted on the Body of Christ, I sure can't see it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Orcs in California

The rage for all things Tolkien has faded a good deal since the last movie hit the DVD remainder bins, but I still frequently pick up my tattered 1-volume copy of LOTR because it's so incredibly rich. Despite reading the whole thing through more times than I can remember, little passages continue to surprise me as if they hadn't ever been there before. This one's from one of the appendices:

But Orcs and Trolls spoke as they would, without love of words or things; and their language was actually more degraded and filthy than I have shown it. I do not suppose that any will wish for a closer rendering. Much of the same sort of talk can still be heard among the orc-minded; dreary and repetitive with hatred and contempt, too long removed from good to retain even verbal vigor, save in the ears of those to whom only the squalid sounds strong.

I thought of this one because, as my wife and I were stopped in traffic in Santa Rosa yesterday while driving home from a great couple of days on the Mendocino coast, I suddenly became aware of the driver in the PG&E truck next to me talking plenty loud enough to hear across the space between our vehicles. She was a perfectly normal looking young woman, having a friendly gab with her co-worker. All I caught was: "F***, really? Nah, you're s***in' me! If that mother-f***er thinks I'm gonna put with that s***... ". Then traffic started moving again.

Dreary and repetitive... check. Without love of words or things... check. To whom only the squalid sounds strong... check. Yep, confirmed Orc sighting. But nothing worth remarking on, really. You can hear the same thing on any California elementary-school playground, where the orc-tribes are constantly recruiting new members.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

This Sunday at St. Thomas

Sung by the St. Ann Choir at St. Thomas Aquinas church at the noon Mass today:

Palestrina, Super flumina Babylonis
Anon. 14c. Italian, Ave verum corpus
Orlando di Lasso, Miserere mei

You can read the complete texts of the these motets at the St. Ann Choir website. Click on the sidebar link there for Motet Texts and Translations.

A prayer

Grant to me keenness of mind,
Capacity to remember,
Skill in learning, subtlety to interpret,
And eloquence of speech.
May you guide the beginning of my work,
Direct its progress,
And bring it to completion.

from a prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas, Ante Studium ("Before Study")
quoted in Kevin Vost's Memorize the Faith

Not a bad prayer for Catholic bloggers, either!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Klingons, meet the Elizabethans

If you're a Star Trek fan (I was, since my daughter was and there was therefore no way to avoid it), you may remember that every now and then a couple of Klingons would find themselves in a tight spot, and then would grin and say to each other "It is a good day to die." If there was a death with honor facing them, they were ready for it.

I always liked that attitude. Seemed to me it was also the Christian attitude, not a desire for death but a lighthearted acceptance of it, if that's what you had to do to keep following Christ. Glad did I live and gladly die / And I laid me down with a will.

We just got home from a concert featuring music of the Elizabethan/Jacobean composer John Dowland, in which the final line of one of the songs was another echo of the same sentiment:

He never happie liv'd that cannot love to die.

Not morbid at all, I think; sublimely free and humane.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Our very own 'victory disease'

In addition to my other vices, I like to read military history. One of my favorite authors is H.P. Willmott, a Briton with some very interesting takes on World War II, especially the early days of the Pacific war.

One of Willmott's themes is the frequent failure of nations to appreciate the crucial importance of time. Especially in war, those in charge often think they've got plenty of time when they really don't, and the result of such complacency is usually a catastrophe. There's a lesson for Catholics in this. But the history first, please, if you'll indulge me.

For one example, Willmott points out how the U.S. thought there was plenty of time to get ready for an attack by Japan, and planned to have the Philippines, where the first blows were expected to fall, fully reinforced by April 1942. As we all know, the Japanese declined to oblige us by accommodating our leisurely timetable, and by April 1942, American soldiers were staggering into captivity in the Bataan Death March.

But this delusion knows no national boundaries. The Japanese, elated by the ease with which their early conquests had come to them, thought they had plenty of time to consolidate their empire. Then came the embarrassment of the Doolittle Raid, then rebuff in the Coral Sea, then disaster at Midway only six months after Pearl Harbor. By then, skeptical Japanese had already coined a phrase for that fatal delusion of unlimited time and assured triumph: 'victory disease.'

I was reminded of all this while listening recently to a fine interview on EWTN's The World Over, featuring the remarkable Dr. Thomas Hilgers of the Pope Paul VI Institute, and Fr. Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International. The subject of in vitro fertilization came up, and the host remarked on the lengthy interval that seemed to elapse between the first application of IVF technology in 1979 and the Church's response. Fr. Euteneuer replied that the first definitive Vatican declaration against IVF came in 1987, and that after all, in Vatican terms, that was almost instantaneous. Or words to that effect.

Eight years? Instantaneous?? Perhaps in heaven, where a thousand years is as a day, but not here on earth. In those eight years, everyone got used to IVF being a neutral part of the moral landscape, so that the Church's opposition, when it eventually firmed up, seemed to come out of left field. And then there was the little matter of the tens of thousands of human embryos made for IVF during those years, with the "extras" getting frozen so they could become a giant temptation for the embryonic stem cell folks. All this, while the Vatican carefully, carefully, carefully decided what to think.

The Catholic Church at the upper levels is much afflicted with its own special version of 'victory disease.' Lulled, it seems, by the assurance that Christ has won the final triumph already, they act as if nothing really bad could ever happen to His flock no matter how long they dither and discuss. Besides, they say, the Church has always thought in terms of centuries...

Gentlemen of the hierarchy: stop it. We are still living on earth, not in heaven. And this is the 21st century, not the 9th. You will never again be able to take all the time you want to respond to evil, without courting disaster. The Enemy is moving too quickly now. Shake off your 'victory disease' and get cracking. It's way, way later than you think.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

'Dagger John', we need you!

This man is 'Dagger John' Hughes, the Irish-born first Archbishop of New York. Karen Hall's blistering post, [Update: sadly, Karen Hall's wonderful blog, Some Have Hats, disappeared a couple of years after I wrote this] about the way Bill Donohue of the Catholic League has been nearly alone among prominent Catholics condemning the vile remarks of John Edwards' blogger staffers, brought him to mind. Besides other small achievements, like leading a moral and cultural rebirth among his city's Irish immigrants and getting the parochial school system off the ground in the U.S., he didn't take guff from any Catholic-hater. He earned his sobriquet not only from the cross he wrote after every signature (resembling the printers' symbol known as a dagger), but also from the devastating writings and speeches by which he countered the hysterical anti-Catholicism of his own day. Here's a snippet from a long but well-written article about him:

In 1829, for instance, outraged by an editorial in a Protestant religious newspaper about “traitorous popery,” he fired off a missive to its editorial board of Protestant ministers, calling them “the clerical scum of the Country.” During the 1834 cholera epidemic in Philadelphia, which nativists blamed on Irish immigrants, Hughes worked tirelessly among the sick and dying, while many Protestant ministers fled the city to escape infection. After the disease subsided, Hughes wrote the U.S. Gazette that Protestant ministers were “remarkable for their pastoral solicitude, so long as the flock is healthy, the pastures pleasant, and the fleece lubricant, abandoning their post when disease begins to spread dissolution in the fold.” He pointed to the work of the Catholic Sisters of Charity, who had cared for cholera victims without regard for their own safety, and wondered where all the people who spoke about perversion in the convents had gone during the epidemic.

Wow. Now that's how a bishop should strike back to defend his Faith and his flock!

So, Dagger John, pray for us, and ask Our Lord to send us another one like you. Really, really soon.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Just imagine...

I encountered this story about Alec Guinness a few years ago in some magazine, and then lost track of it. Found it again yesterday at thecatholic.org.

The late actor Sir Alec Guiness once related that, before his conversion to the Catholic Faith, he had been very anti-clerical: “I would shudder if I passed a priest or nun”, he said. But the day was to come in the 1950’s when he would go to a Catholic priest and ask him if he might be received into the Church. One incident in particular had helped him overcome his anti-clerical sentiments, he later recalled. The actor had been working on a film based on one of G.K. Chesterton’s famous Father Brown mysteries; he was playing the title role.

One night after a day’s shooting on a location about a mile outside the village where he was staying, he had walked home without changing his clerical costume for lay attire. “It was absolutely dark”, he related. Suddenly I heard some little footsteps running after me. My hand was taken by a small boy who walked with me all the way to the village. He chattered all the way, but I didn’t utter a word, for fear of frightening him. Eventually he said farewell and disappeared. Afterwards, I thought how marvellous it was that a child in a dark lane would run and take your hand just because he thought you were a priest. It totally changed my attitude.”

Turns out this experience was one of many that apparently influenced Guinness to convert to Catholicism. What a wonderful little vignette! A memento of a day we won't soon see again, when most of the world saw the priesthood as a trusted and revered calling. It was a reputation earned by generation upon generation of good, faithful priests whose names we'll never know. Ironically, we now know only too well the names of the priests and bishops who threw it all away.

Yes, most priests still deserve that trust and reverence, but now they all have to struggle with suspicion and derision, because a few bad ones weren't stopped when the problems first began coming to light. I suppose some might argue that this unjust mental and emotional suffering mirrors the sufferings of Christ and is somehow good for priests, and would quote from this Sunday's Gospel reading ("woe to you when men speak well of you..."), but you won't convince me. There are plenty of instances when priests have to suffer unjustly, without piling this on them, too.

Remember that the event Guinness related happened back in the 1950's, when the Church was just so woefully out of date that it had to be fixed. Everyone back then would have seen that tiny episode of parish life as an example of childhood innocence placing its trust exactly where that trust had been very richly deserved. Today, many people would see that same episode with... well, another reaction entirely.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

This Sunday at St. Thomas

Sung by the St. Ann Choir at St. Thomas Aquinas church today:

Tomas Luis de Victoria, Ave Maria
Claudio Monteverdi, O bone Jesu

Saturday, February 10, 2007


It occurs to me that someone might read my previous post and misunderstand something. When I approved of religious freedom and the inevitable competition that pushes churches to make themselves attractive to converts, I so didn't mean to endorse the last wave of trendy innovations in Catholic liturgy, architecture, and music that began in the late 60's and is only now dying out.

The people behind those innovations claimed that they were trying to make the church more attractive to contemporary Catholics and the world at large, as if they were just humbly responding to some groundswell of popular demand. In reality, the changes they concocted were frequently forced through over the anguished and confused complaints of rank-and-file Catholics, and attracted few if any converts. I know, because I was in my teens and 20's then, and paying attention. These people were really only concerned with making it more attractive to themselves. Big difference.

In the long run, the only thing that gives any Christian church a lasting appeal to converts, not to mention its own members, is the person of Christ. In the short run, I don't know what will work best for other churches, but the best way for the Catholic Church to make itself an appealing place for Christ to be found is to (1) dump the dalliance with "Barney" Masses, fourth-rate pop ballads, sterile modernist architecture, and all the ugly rubble of the last forty years of experimentation, (2) rebuild its connection with its briefly rejected but still esthetically radiant traditions, and (3) preach Christ without giving a you-know-what about what will offend people.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Orthodoxy and freedom

I'm increasingly convinced that the best combination of circumstances for growth of the Catholic Church is orthodoxy and religious freedom.

Religious freedom in society does two good things: it forces the Church to compete with other religions being offered, and it allows the Church to enjoy such rewards of that competition as it may earn. That is, the Church has to make itself appealing, and if it does so and thereby attracts converts, those converts aren't risking life and limb.

Latin America gives us an example of what happens when the Church is given more or less a religious monopoly. The church there never had to struggle to make its message attractive, and so very few people who self-identify as Catholics actually attend Mass or pay much attention to the Church's positions on issues. Latin American men are particularly turned off by the Church, and it's been that way for generations. No great wonder: the Church never had to explain why the Christian life is actually more heroic, and therefore more attractively masculine, than the superficial bravado of machismo.

But the freedom to compete isn't enough by itself. To attract people to the Faith and keep them, the Church also has to remain true to its own teachings, that is, it must remain orthodox, and it must be seen to take effective action to enforce -- yes, enforce -- orthodoxy within its own ranks.

To see that principle in action, we can look at our own country. While the Church remained orthodox and disciplined in its teachings and the guiding of its clergy and lay people, its influence in American society grew and grew. As American culture was stumbling into the 60's, the Catholic Church was well positioned to help it keep its feet. But at that moment, many influential Catholics, especially among the hierarchy and in Catholic universities, abandoned orthodoxy for the trendy ideas of the times. And when they dared the Church to enforce its teachings, the Church blew the now-familiar uncertain trumpet that inspires no one, backed down, and started mumbling about taking a 'pastoral' approach.

That's exactly when the Catholic Church in the United States started losing its influence in American culture and politics, the influence that had taken two centuries of patient effort to earn. The effective abandonment first of tradition, then of orthodoxy, led from carelessness in small things to carelessness in bigger things. Ultimately, it led to the terrible pederasty scandal in the priesthood. Time and again, the tale was told of priests who went bad and -- what was much worse -- of bishops who looked the other way.

It was said in defense of this that we were about forgiveness now, not sin. We were a Resurrection People, yada yada yada. But what we were really about was nothing so special. We were simply about not caring how badly our members behaved. Organizations that do that simply rot from within. The people inside such organizations who care about keeping to the rules see that those who don't are simply allowed to get away with it, or are even preferred for promotion. The people who care are the ones that any organization needs to keep. Instead, we lost them. To Evangelical Protestantism, to non-denominational churches, even to Islam. A few stayed and fought, and some are coming back, and these now embody our hope for the future.

The Church had a spectacular opportunity at the opening of the 1960's and fumbled it. It probably won't get another in my lifetime. Maybe in yours. Given the rising animus against religion in general in influential parts of American culture and politics, the next one may not play out in such circumstances of religious freedom as presented themselves in 1960. That part of the equation is not so much under our control as the other part: orthodoxy. Let's see if we as a Church can get that back and keep it, so we're ready when that next big chance is given to us.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The God of things as they are

The little gem of a chapel in the photo above is located, of all places, in a cemetery in Los Angeles. Known as the Church of the Recessional, it was built as a replica of the English parish church in the village where Rudyard Kipling grew up. Some interior changes were necessary to suit its funerary role, but they did a fine job of retaining all the authenticity they could. The lovely stained glass is American, from about 1940. Many of the windows tastefully weave themes and words of Kipling's into their otherwise conventional Christian design. Here's a sample.

The scroll that the angel's holding reads, "Colour fulfils where music hath no power," a quotation from Kipling's 1925 poem Chartres Windows. Definitely a sentiment any lover of stained glass would like, though music-lovers might demur.

Outside, there's a stone wall with the inscription below, another poem by Kipling. I liked it because it celebrates both art and our God, Who built us a rational universe whose truth and beauty we could discover and partly comprehend with the intellect and intuition He gave us, and Who can therefore claim the title of "the God of things as they are."

When Earth's last picture is painted,
And the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colors have faded
And the youngest critic has died,

We shall rest, and faith! we shall need it --
Lie down for an aeon or two --
'Till the Master of all good workmen

Shall put us to work anew.

And those that were good shall be happy
They'll sit in a golden chair,

They'll splash at a ten league canvas

With brushes of comet's hair
They'll find real saints to draw from
Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
They'll work for an age at a sitting
And never be tired at all!

And only the Master shall praise us,
And only the Master shall blame;

And no one will work for money,
And no one will work for fame.

But each for the joy of the working,

And each, in his separate star,

Will draw the thing as he sees it,

For the God of things as they are!

They say that we've largely lost a sense of what Heaven will be like, and therefore much of our longing for it. But for anyone involved in the arts in any way, Kipling's vision is a good reminder that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." (1 Cor. 2:9)

Anti-Catholic billboards? No problem, says CBS

The Catholic League has published an article and photos of two billboards in Indiana owned by CBS Outdoor, a division of CBS. Both have obvious anti-Catholic messages -- I hope that no one would deny that claiming that the Pope was the Antichrist is anti-Catholic -- paid for by something that calls itself the Eternal Gospel Church, one of the 10,000-plus tiny Protestant sects that pepper the American religious landscape. Both billboards have been the targets of complaints from Catholics. Both are staying up, at least for now, says CBS.

The article claims that CBS Outdoor has previously rejected content from PETA that it deemed offensive, so it appears that there's precedent for denial of this content, too. Well, it would be precedent -- if CBS saw anything offensive about grossly insulting the leadership of the Catholic Church, which may explain the difference in treatment of the two cases.

Now, I think the Catholic League took the wrong approach in their main counter-move to date. After CBS Outdoor refused to take down the billboards, they say they asked CBS to put up a billboard, paid for by the League, stating "CBS sponsors anti-Catholicism." They were refused, on the grounds that CBS would not publish sentiments that were defamatory to itself.

I sure understand the fury at this effrontery that may fuel the League's efforts. But I really don't know what other response they could have expected to that proposal. I suppose one could argue that CBS Outdoor ought to be forced to do it, but that's a side issue, to me.

Instead, why not take up the question raised by the offending billboards, which is whether God intended that Christians celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday? It's not like the Catholic Church decided on the Sabbath day by closing its eyes and poking a finger at the calendar. We've got reasons, and good ones, dating from very early in Christian practice.

So why not put up a billboard saying "Why Catholics really celebrate Sunday, and why you should, too." Give a toll-free number to call to hear a short recorded message. Give the URL of a web page with a concise but complete explanation, links to source documents, a podcast, and a YouTube video. A small, knowledgeable group of people with inexpensive equipment and modest web skills could knock that out in days -- hours if the coffee was strong enough. (Yes, I did work in IT for a long time).

To me, an educational approach like this that respects the intelligence of the seeker would be a much better use of the opportunity than continuing a war of insults. We don't have to scream back at people who scream at us; we have the truth, so let's calm down and teach it to people. (Though a part of me really just wants to let fly against anti-Catholic bigots such as the EGC). And the resource it would put in place could go on spreading the truth for years to come, with minor tweaks as technology advances.

Friday, February 02, 2007

At the risk of sounding heartless...

A few days ago, a small story appeared in our local rag concerning an estimate that there were about 744,000 homeless people in the U.S. in 2005. The canvass was done by a homeless advocacy group, so one can expect that any error would be on the high side.

The article was, as I said, a small one, and I turned the page and read on for a few minutes. But you know how some small part of your mind sometimes keeps on working on a problem in the background while your main attention moves on? That's what happened in this case. It suddenly came to me: that's less than 1 percent of the population of the country!

Actually, it's about a quarter of one percent, if you assume a total population of 300 million, which was also in the news recently. At the state level, Nevada had the highest proportion to population, at 0.68 percent. So, no state has even one one-hundredth of its residents living without a roof over their heads.

Now, poverty and mental illness and bad fortune and all the other causes of homelessness are forms of suffering that we as Christians are expected to work hard to alleviate (and we do). Don't get me wrong here. I'm not advocating letting anyone starve or freeze to death on the streets, or jamming the poor into Dickensian workhouses.

What I am asking for is some perspective. Homelessness, by even a favorable estimate, afflicts just a tiny fraction of Americans. Yet often, it seems the only social issue that anyone talks about. When my daughter was in middle school and high school, it seemed that Community Service projects were almost invariably directed at collecting food for the homeless, serving food to the homeless, building Habitat for Humanity homes for the homeless, raising funds for the homeless, and so on and on for the homeless. It was as if no other societal problem had any importance. To give another example: at Sunday Mass, we're led to pray every week for an end to homelessness, but only once a year for an end to abortion on demand (impact: about a million lives lost annually -- not made miserable or uncomfortable or humiliating, but snuffed out).

Yes indeed, it's bad that we have even 0.25 percent of our population living without housing, and we ought to do what we can to reduce that number. But there are other fields in which we're called to labor and give of our treasure, too. And if we're all getting in each other's way trying to "help the homeless", it means that a lot of other worthy causes aren't getting their share of our attention.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Baltimore Catechism

I was recalling the old Baltimore Catechism No. 2 from my elementary school days, googled, and found the entire text attractively presented here.

It's so marvelously clear and unambiguous, you wonder why it was ever abandoned. Unless maybe because it was too clear and unambiguous. Gotta have wiggle room if you want to make everyone happy regardless of what they believe.

Why I so seldom go to the movies

Barb Nicolosi, who knows the movie industry from the inside, expresses the reason that I just don't go to the movies much anymore: because they too often take me where I don't need or want to go.

So, if you look at the culture today, there are many infections out there that I would rather not contract. Radical cynicism, sexual degradation, horrific cruelty -- these are kinds of disturbing evils that most people would never encounter, except that they are shoveled at them on the screen. Maybe they aren’t ready to have these images imprinted on their spirits. Maybe their life would never have taken them to the kinds of hells that filmmakers routinely put into their movies – just to get the kudos of the industry which mistakes outrageousness too often for courage. My question to the filmmakers who want to sneer at and debunk everything beautiful is, just because you have lost your hope and faith, does that mean you have to be busy about trashing mine? Just because you have lost your own innocence, does that mean it is a socially responsible thing to destroy mine?

Many films today offer some small goods of insight to the audience. But, the insights are cloaked in so much depraved barbarity that the teeny good of the content is not worth the sliming journey of its method. I am someone who actually believes that there is a place for decorum and graciousness in human society. Many of the movies out there today are just way to full of things that fall into the realm of what St. Paul meant when he said, “There are some things that should never be mentioned among you.” In my mind, there are some shameful things which should be the fodder for prayer and sacrifice, but should never be served up with popcorn as entertainment. Beyond just perversions like bestiality, which is getting a few screenings at Sundance this year, this means things that are just crass and purely voyeuristic and degrading.

Movies like this are “Little Children” and “Little Miss Sunshine.” They have something good to say, but they violate your innocence and defile you so much on the way that it just isn’t worth it. It is like if you told me you have a headache, and I said, “Oh, well I know where there is an aspirin for you! You just have to walk through a putrid sewer for a few miles to get it.” So, on the way to curing your headache, you pick up diptheria and typhoid. Peachy. Thanks for that.